Most of the infants are prone to infections because their immune systems are not strong enough to defend against the viruses and bacteria that cause infections. As the infants are not able to complain about their discomfort and pains, they should be closely watched once they exhibit some changes in the behavior. One of the most common infections found among the babies is a sore throat or a throat infection.
What Is Throat Infection Like For A Baby?
A throat infection in a baby causes discomfort and pain in that area. Most of the time the soreness is caused due to swelling of that part. Sore throat in babies can be an indication of a viral or a bacterial infection.
Generally, a sore throat caused due to viral infection heals by itself with some attention provided at home. But a sore throat caused due to bacteria needs extra care and treatment to prevent complications.
The occurrence of a sore throat in babies is not as frequent when compared to toddlers and older children.
What Causes Sore Throat Or Throat Infection In Babies?
The most common cause of throat infections found among babies is upper respiratory infections. But there are several factors that can lead to throat infection in babies some of which, if not properly treated can cause complications. Sore throat and throat infections are found to be a significant symptom of some major infections that affects infants and toddlers.
Viral illness that can lead to sore throat includes:
- Common cold: Common cold if not treated properly, can lead to a sore throat
- Measles, chicken pox, mumps: These viral diseases can sometimes cause a sore throat
- Flu or influenza: Flu or influenza is a respiratory illness caused by the virus. This can lead to sore throats
- Mononucleosis: This is also known as ‘kissing disease’ as it is spread through the saliva. One of the symptoms of mononucleosis is sore throat. It is possible for the toddlers to catch this disease through the cups, toys, spoon or personal belongings of the older siblings or kiss from a loving relative who has the infection
- Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFND): HFND is a common viral disease that generally affects infants and children under 5 years. Even though it is a rare cause, one of the symptoms of HFND is sore throat
Bacterial illness that can lead to sore throat includes:
- Strep throat: Strep throat is a bacterial throat infection that causes inflammation of the throat. This is more common among school going children and seen rarely among toddlers and infants. But the chances of your infant getting the infection if exposed to strep carriers (ones that carry bacteria but never show the symptoms) can’t be overlooked
- Diphtheria: Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that effects mucus membrane of the throat and nose. Sore throat is the main symptom of diphtheria. If not treated properly diphtheria can damage kidney, heart and nerves
- Whooping cough: Whooping cough is a highly infectious respiratory tract infection. Sometimes sore throat is associated with this infection
Illness caused due to both virus and bacteria that leads to sore throat includes:
- Tonsillitis: Tonsillitis is the inflammation of two oval shaped lymph nodes called tonsils, which is located on both sides of the back of the throat. It can be caused by either virus or bacteria
- Croup: Croup is a contagious respiratory infection mainly found among children below 6 years. Even though it is usually caused by the virus, occasionally bacterial infections are also found to be the reason behind the croup
- Irritants and allergies: There are both outdoor irritants and indoor irritants that can cause irritation to your little one’s throat. Outdoor irritants include all the factors that trigger air pollution like smoke, dust, pollen etc. Indoor irritants mainly includes secondhand tobacco smoke and pet’s dander. Allergy developed against these irritants can cause inflammation of your baby’s throat
- Dry air: Dry indoor air, particularly during winter when room heaters are used to increase the room temperature, can make the baby’s throat dry and show difficulties in swallowing. Dry air due to low humidity also has the same effect
- Breathing through the mouth: When your baby tends to breathe through his mouth often due to a nose block due to cold, can cause dry, sore throat
What Are The Symptoms Of Sore Throat Or Throat Infection In Babies?
The symptoms and signs of a sore throat and throat infection varies with the cause and severity of the infection. The main signs exhibited by the baby are:
- Shows difficulty in swallowing
- Pain worsens when swallowing
- Toddlers will refuse to eat or drink. The moment the infants try to gulp breast milk, he will start to cry due to the throat pain
- Loss of appetite
- Redness inside the throat
- Fever, which always accompanies an infection
- Swollen glands in the neck
- Hoarse or muffled voice. Even though the infants won’t talk, their voice during crying changes
- Cold like symptoms
- Difficulty to sleep. The sleeplessness increases with the pain and severity of the infection
- Very rarely the baby develops skin rashes
- Fuzziness and remain irritated all the time
When To Seek Immediate Medical Attention?
Head to your child’s doctor if he is below three months old and shows any three of the above symptoms. Take your baby who is above three months immediately to the doctor if:
- Your baby finds it difficult to breathe
- Your baby shows difficulty to swallow for more than a day
- When the baby refuses to eat or drink due to throat pain
- Unusual drooling (drop saliva uncontrollably from the mouth) which indicate the baby’s inability to swallow
- When the baby shows signs of dehydration
- If the baby shows difficulty to open the mouth wide
How Does Throat Infection In The Baby Diagnosed?
Throat infection among babies is diagnosed based on the symptoms. But when the doctor doubts a bacterial infection, then some unavoidable tests are done.
- Performing a throat culture using a swab from the back of your baby’s throat
- Many pediatricians perform rapid strep tests, to clear or confirm the doubt of the strep throat, which provides the result within few minutes
- The doctor will inspect the tonsils for swelling or redness and will diagnose tonsillitis
- If your child’s doctor relates a sore throat with some allergy, he will ask an allergist to perform additional tests to find out the allergens
How Is Throat Infection Treated In Babies?
As we already mentioned the throat infection due to a viral attack are relatively harmless and will resolve its own. Just be particular in providing him enough rest and make him drink plenty of fluids. Suppose a sore throat is due to bacterial infection, your baby’s pediatrician will prescribe some antibiotics to eliminate the infection. It is very important to complete the entire course of antibiotics even if the child shows significant improvement (in most cases, all the symptoms will vanish with a day or two after taking the antibiotics) in a day or two once he starts to have the medicines.
In case of some severe bacterial infection, hospitalization of the child is inevitable.
How Can I Help My Baby Deal With Throat Infection Better?
We have compiled some tips below and along with medications, these will help to soothe the irritation and pain caused by a sore throat and throat infection among babies. However, we strongly suggest that you do consult your child’s doctor before trying anyone of them
- Moist air is beneficial for a sore throat. Hence, keeping the baby in a bath room full of steam can be helpful to sooth a sore throat
- Using humidifier in his bed room will help to provide relief from the throat infection
- Give your baby easy-to-swallow food. It will be more difficult for them to swallow food that is not soft. Mashed banana, soup etc. will be easy to swallow and will provide nourishment
It is impossible to protect or to shield your baby from infections all the time. But once some infection signs show up, seeking medical attention (if needed), and proper care will help your child clear away the infection fast. Even if we observe all the protective measures that come to mind, like cleanliness, or even avoiding contact with possibly infected people, it may still prove to be difficult to avoid infections completely.