Sore Throat or Throat Infection in Children by Dr. Srikanta J T

6 min read

Written by Dr. Srikanta J T

Dr. Srikanta J T

Dr Srikanta J.T is a Interventional Paediatric Pulmonologist based in Bangalore with 12+ years of experience.

His expertise lies in Paediatric Pulmonary Medicine, Paediatric Interventional P More

throat infection in children

Most children are prone to infections because their immune systems are not strong enough to defend against the viruses and bacteria that cause infections. As children interact with other children while playing, going to school, or participating in other activities, their chances of contracting throat infections increase. Sore throat or throat infection in children can be accompanied by cough, runny nose, sometimes fever, and even ear pain.

In children, the most common cause of a throat infection can be a virus resulting in the common cold or the flu. Sometimes, a bacterial infection such as a streptococcal infection often causes a throat infection. In this article, we discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for throat infections.

In This Article

What is Throat Infection Like For a Child?

Throat infection in a child causes discomfort and pain in the throat area. Most of the time the soreness is caused due to swelling of that part. A sore throat can be an indication of a viral or 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.

Causes of Sore Throat or Throat Infection in Children

Causes Of Sore Throat In Children

The most common cause of throat infections is upper respiratory infections. But there are several factors that can lead to throat infection in children, some of which, if not properly treated, can cause complications.

1. Causes of Sore Throat Due to Viruses

Viruses can cause the following conditions resulting in throat infections in kids.

a) Common Cold

Common cold if not treated properly, can lead to a sore throat.

b) Measles, Chickenpox, Mumps

These viral diseases can sometimes cause a sore throat.

[Read : Mumps In Children]

c) Flu or Influenza

Flu or influenza is a respiratory illness caused by the virus. This can lead to sore throats.

d) Mononucleosis

This is also known as ‘kissing disease’ as it is spread through the saliva. One of the symptoms of mononucleosis is a sore throat. It is possible for children to catch this disease through cups, toys, spoons or personal belongings of their older siblings or friends or classmates.

e) 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.

2. Causes of Sore Throat Due to Bacteria

Sore Throat Due To Bacteria

Bacterial infections can cause the following conditions resulting in throat infections in kids.

a) Strep Throat

Strep throat is a bacterial throat infection that causes inflammation of the throat. This is more common among school-going children and is seen rarely among toddlers and infants.

b) Diphtheria

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that affects the mucus membrane of the throat and nose. Sore throat is the main symptom of diphtheria. If not treated properly diphtheria can damage kidneys, heart and nerves.

c) Whooping Cough

Whooping cough is a highly infectious respiratory tract infection. Sometimes a sore throat is associated with this infection.

3. Causes of Sore Throat Due to Bacteria and Viruses

Children can also suffer from throat pain due to the following conditions.

a) Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is the inflammation of two oval-shaped lymph nodes called tonsils, which are located on both sides of the back of the throat. It can be caused by either viruses or bacteria.

[Read : Tonsillitis In Children]

b) Croup

Croup is a contagious respiratory infection mainly seen in 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.

4. Additional Causes of Throat Pain in Children

Additional Causes of Throat Pain in Children

a) 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 include secondhand tobacco smoke and pet dander. Allergy developed against these irritants can cause inflammation of the throat.

b) Dry Air

Dry indoor air, particularly during winter when room heaters are used to increase the room temperature, can make the child’s throat dry and show difficulties in swallowing. Dry air due to low humidity also has the same effect

c) Breathing Through the Mouth

When your child breathes through the mouth due to a nose block due to a cold, it can cause a dry, sore throat.

What Are the Symptoms of Sore Throat or Throat Infection in Children?

The Symptoms Of Sore Throat

The symptoms and signs of a sore throat and throat infection vary with the cause and severity of the infection. The main signs exhibited by the children are:

  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Worsening pain when swallowing
  • Refuse to eat or drink
  • Loss of appetite
  • Redness inside the throat
  • Fever, which always accompanies an infection
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • A hoarse or muffled voice
  • Cold-like symptoms
  • Difficulty sleeping. Sleeplessness increases with the pain and severity of the infection
  • Skin rashes in rare cases
  • Fuzziness and irritability

How is Throat Infection in Kids Diagnosed?

The doctor will diagnose throat infection in children after a couple of tests.

  • Physical examination, especially of the throat, nose, and lungs to check for the presence of infection.
  • Throat culture using a swab from the back of your child’s throat.
  • Rapid strep tests, to clear or confirm the doubt of the strep throat, which provides the result within a few minutes.
  • Inspection of the tonsils for swelling or redness to confirm or rule out tonsilitis.
  • Allergy tests to rule out allergens as the source of sore throat.

[Read : Skin Prick Allergy Test in Children]

How is Throat Infection Treated in Children?

throat spray

As we already mentioned, throat infections due to a viral attack are relatively harmless and will resolve on their own. Just be, particularly in providing your child with enough rest and making them drink plenty of fluids. Suppose a sore throat is due to a bacterial infection, your pediatrician will prescribe some antibiotics to eliminate the infection. Throat spray also may prescribe to alleviate pain.

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 within a day or two after taking the antibiotics) in a day or two once he starts to have the medicines. In case of any severe bacterial infection, hospitalization of the child may be needed.

When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention?

When To Seek Immediate Medical Attention_

You may need to take your child to the paediatrician under the following conditions.

  • Your child finds it difficult to breathe.
  • They show difficulty in swallowing for more than a day.
  • Fever accompanies sore throat.
  • The child refuses to eat or drink due to throat pain.
  • They show signs of dehydration.

How Can I Help My Child Deal With Throat Infection Better?

How Can I Help My Child Deal With Throat Infection

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 kids. However, we strongly suggest that you do consult your child’s doctor before trying any one of them

  • Moist air is beneficial for a sore throat. Hence, keeping the child in a bathroom full of steam can be helpful to soothe a sore throat.
  • Using a humidifier in their bedroom will help to provide relief from the throat infection.
  • Give them easy-to-digest foods.
  • Let them drink warm water and fluids which will help provide relief from throat pain and discomfort.

It is impossible to protect or shield your child 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.

Read Also: Breathing Problems In Children – Causes And Symptoms

Dr. Srikanta J T, MBBS, Diploma in Child Health (DCH), Diplomate of National Board(DNB), Fellowship in Pediatric Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine(NUH, Singapore), Training in Interventional Pulmonology
Consultant - Paediatric Interventional Pulmonology, Allergy and Sleep Medicine, ASTER CMI Hospital
10 years of experience

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