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Pharyngitis in Children



, or sore throat, is inflammation of the tissues and structures in your child's pharynx (throat). Pharyngitis may be caused by a bacterial or viral infection.

Signs and symptoms that may occur with pharyngitis include the following:

  • Pain during swallowing, or hoarseness
  • Cough, runny or stuffy nose, itchy or watery eyes
  • A rash on his or her body
  • Fever and headache
  • Whitish-yellow patches on the back of the throat
  • Tender, swollen lumps on the sides of the neck
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach pain

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child suddenly has trouble breathing or turns blue.
  • Your child has swelling or pain in his or her jaw.
  • Your child has voice changes, or it is hard to understand his or her speech.
  • Your child has a stiff neck.
  • Your child is urinating less than usual or has fewer diapers than usual.
  • Your child has increased weakness or fatigue.
  • Your child has pain on one side of the throat that is much worse than the other side.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child's symptoms return or his symptoms do not get better or get worse.
  • Your child has a rash. He or she may also have reddish cheeks and a red, swollen tongue.
  • Your child has new ear pain, headaches, or pain around his or her eyes.
  • Your child pauses in breathing when he or she sleeps.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Viral pharyngitis

will go away on its own without treatment. Your child's sore throat should start to feel better in 3 to 5 days for both viral and bacterial infections. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Antibiotics treat a bacterial infection.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.

Manage your child's symptoms:

  • Have your child rest as much as possible.
  • Give your child plenty of liquids so he or she does not get dehydrated. Give your child liquids that are easy to swallow and will soothe his or her throat.
  • Soothe your child's throat. If your child can gargle, give him or her ¼ of a teaspoon of salt mixed with 1 cup of warm water to gargle. If your child is 12 years or older, give him or her throat lozenges to help decrease throat pain.
  • Use a cool mist humidifier to increase air moisture in your home. This may make it easier for your child to breathe and help decrease his or her cough.

Prevent the spread of germs:

Wash your hands and your child's hands often. Keep your child away from other people while he or she is still contagious. Ask your child's healthcare provider how long your child is contagious. Do not let your child share food or drinks. Do not let your child share toys or pacifiers. Wash these items with soap and hot water.

When to return to school or daycare:

Your child may return to daycare or school when his or her symptoms go away.

Follow up with your child's doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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