When your child has a sore throat, you want to do anything you can to make him or her feel better. Determining the cause of the sore throat is key to receiving treatment. While a sore throat can be something as minor as the common cold, it can also be a bacterial infection like strep throat.

Find Your Closest Location


What To Know About A Sore Throat With a Cold

Most commonly, a virus is the cause behind a sore throat. Typically, the sore throat will come with additional symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing and watery eyes. Unfortunately, if your child has a cold, there is no cure; however, there are ways you can help alleviate the pain. Serve your child warm liquids, have him or her gargle warm salt water and take an over-the-counter pain reliever.

While sore throats will typically go away without medical treatment, they can still be painful and annoying. It’s a good idea to use some natural remedies for your child’s sore throat to help alleviate the pain and prevent it from turning into something more serious. If your child is suffering from a sore throat, there are a few things you should know as you treat the infection.


What To Know About A Strep Throat

While a virus causes the common cold, strep throat is caused by a bacterial infection. Most common in children 5-15 years old, strep throat is spread when children are in contact with an infected person’s saliva or nasal secretions. Strep throat symptoms are usually more severe than a sore throat with a cold. Loss of appetite, fever and white spots inside the throat are all common signs of strep throat. If your child is diagnosed with strep throat, an antibiotic will be prescribed to kill the bacteria. It takes a day or two before your child will begin to feel better once he or she starts taking an antibiotic.

ask a nurse hotline

Questions? Ask A Nurse

Medical City Healthcare's 24 Hour Nurse Line provides free access to advice from real nurses.

 (888) 563- KIDS (5437)


What Causes Sore Throats?

  • Viral infections: Your child’s sore throat may be a result of the common cold, laryngitis, mono or other viral infections.
  • Bacterial infections: Your child’s sore throat could be caused by a bacterial infection—a result of strep throat, tonsillitis, an infection around the tonsils (peritonsillar abscess) or other bacterial infections.
  • Irritants and injuries: If your child has suffered throat irritation from smoking, air pollution, yelling or nasal drainage, he or she may experience a sore throat. An injury to the back of the throat, such as a cut or puncture, can also cause a sore throat.


How Is Strep Throat Diagnosed?

Strep throat can be difficult to diagnose, especially in young children. The best way to determine if your child has strep throat is to seek a professional diagnosis from a medical professional.

A doctor will typically use a throat culture to collect fluid samples from the back of your child’s throat. This isn’t painful, but it can be uncomfortable. Don’t be surprised if your child gags during the swabbing.  The sample collected from your child’s throat will help your doctor find any presence of group A Streptococcus. Normally, the results will return with minutes.


In some cases, the rapid strep tests can come back negative, despite the presence of strep. If your child’s symptoms point toward strep, the doctor may send the samples to a lab to create a throat culture. While these results can take longer (typically two days), the results are more definitive.


How to Treat a Sore Throat Naturally

Have your child gargle with salt water to help reduce swelling. It is recommended that he or she gargle hourly with 1 teaspoon of salt mixed with 8 fluid ounces of warm water.

Place a humidifier in your child’s room. This will help alleviate pain and stop hoarseness. If you don’t own a humidifier, you can also place a shallow pan of water in their room to provide moisture in the air via evaporation.

Keeping your child hydrated is key to treating a sore throat. Hot fluids can also help keep irritation at a minimum.


How Is Strep Throat Treated?

Strep throat requires more treatment than a sore throat caused by a cold. Once your child has been diagnosed with strep throat, a doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics, typically amoxicillin and penicillin. Normally, these antibiotics kick in instantly to relieve symptoms and reduce discomfort.

Once your child has been on antibiotics for 24 hours, he or she is no longer considered contagious. It’s important to note that just because your child’s symptoms have improved, it does not mean you should stop administering the antibiotics. If you do stop early, you run the risk of your child’s symptoms relapsing. This could lead to a worse infection or, even worse, a more serious complication.


How To Prevent Strep Throat

It can be difficult to prevent strep throat, especially if someone your child is around is carrying the strep bacteria. One of the best ways to prevent your child from catching strep throat is to teach him or her how to properly wash their hands.  Your child should wash their hands regularly, especially prior to eating a meal and any time they come back from a large group, such as daycare or the playground.


You should also tell your child that he or she should not share any toys, utensils, drinks or other objects anytime they are sick, or with others who may be sick. If your child happens to get strep throat, you should replace his or her toothbrush. While your child should be somewhat immune after getting strep throat, they can run the risk of getting re-infected.

Check-In Online


If your child has a sore throat, visit your local Medical City Children’s Hospital Urgent Care. We’re open late 7 days a week because sickness is never on your schedule.


If your child has been diagnosed with strep throat and experiences any of the following symptoms, you should contact a doctor immediately or go to your closest ER:

  • Fever of 101.5 degrees
  • Red rash
  • Problems swallowing or breathing
  • Swollen joints or a rash up to three weeks after the initial infection.


Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you or your child.