What to do when your child has a sore throat

As the weather gets colder, everyone is more susceptible to colds. A common ailment, in particular, that often affects young children during baby development is a sore throat. This is usually caused by one of three things: an upper respiratory infection, viral pharyngitis or strep pharyngitis. In more severe cases, tonsillitis may occur, which is when the tonsils become inflamed due to an invading virus or bacteria. While some of these conditions can be managed at home or under the direction of a pediatrician, others require hospital admission. So, how do new parents know how to address sore throats?   

When your baby is still younger than 2 years old, it may be hard to tell if he or she is suffering from an upper respiratory infection. Some indicators that you should bring your child to a doctor include refusing to eat foods that he or she normally enjoys or crying while eating, according to Seattle Children's Hospital, Research and Foundation. For older children who can communicate with you, it's usually easy to just ask them about how their throat feels.

Strep throat
A highly contagious bacteria that individuals between the ages of 5 and 15 tend to be prone to is group A streptococcus, generally known as strep. Along with a sore throat, this condition causes many symptoms such as headaches, abdominal pain, nausea and a scarlet-fever rash. Coughing, runny nose and red eyes usually indicate that the ailment is not caused by strep, but rather a virus. A physician can test for strep by performing a throat swab culture. If it tests positive for the bacteria, the clinician may prescribe a course of antibiotics.

Viral pharyngitis 
The most common cause of a sore throat is a virus. The National Institutes of Health states that accompanying symptoms may include discomfort when swallowing, fever, joint pain or muscle aches and tender, swollen lymph nodes in the neck. If a doctor diagnoses a patient with this condition, unfortunately, it cannot be treated with any medications. Parents can have their child gargle with warm salt water throughout the day and take anti-inflammatory drugs to manage discomfort and fever. If it lasts for more than 10 days, mom or dad should contact their child's pediatrician for further evaluation.

The common cold
Another cause of a sore throat is the common cold. This is also typically caused by a viral pathogen, such as influenza. Affected individuals may experience nasal stuffiness or runniness, as well as a cough. In these cases, symptoms tend to last for two weeks and should clear up on their own, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When your child gets sick, do you immediately take him or her to see a pediatrician or do you normally wait a few days? What are some at-home remedies you'd recommend to other parents to reduce symptoms? Leave your answers in the comments section!