Does Your Child Have Frequent Sore Throats?

child sore throat

If you are a parent, you know that sore throats happen all the time. Children get sore throats much more often than adults, and they are a common reason for a visit to the pediatrician.

But why do children experience sore throats so often?

“The ear, nose and throat region in children is very prone to infection and inflammation, which is one reason children get ear infections and sore throats more often than adults,” said Kara Kimberly, MD, a board-certified ear, nose and throat specialist at Penn Highlands Healthcare.

“Growth is another reason why we see so many children with ears, nose and throat issues,” said Dr. Kimberly. “A child’s ear, nose and throat are not fully developed until about age 6, which can lead to frequent issues during the first few years of life. While they are a typical part of childhood, talk to your pediatrician if your child experiences chronic or recurring sore throats.”

Many things can cause a sore throat, but colds are the most common cause. Most colds get better without treatment, usually within a week to 10 days, and children generally do not need medical attention. However, if your child has a severe headache or pain, a rising fever or fever lasting more than two days, difficulty breathing, ear pain, extreme fussiness, unusual drowsiness or lack of appetite, you should see your pediatrician.

Strep throat is another likely cause for a sore throat. While colds are caused by a virus, strep is caused by a bacterial infection, and it is the most common bacterial cause, accounting for about 20% of sore throats that do not have cold symptoms. Typical symptoms of strep may also include a fever, headache, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting. In severe cases, a child may experience serious trouble breathing or purple or blood-colored spots or dots on the skin with a fever. If your child exhibits these symptoms, call 911 and seek emergency medical attention.

Strep throat needs to be treated, and it can cause complications like kidney inflammation or rheumatic fever if it goes untreated. If your child is diagnosed with strep, your pediatrician will likely prescribe an oral antibiotic.

Tonsillitis, which is inflammation of the tonsils, can also be the culprit of a sore throat. Tonsillitis is often caused by a viral infection, but bacterial infections also may be to blame. Along with a sore throat, symptoms may include swollen tonsils, difficulty swallowing and tender lymph nodes on the sides of the neck.

If your pediatrician suspects your child’s tonsillitis is caused by a virus, they will likely have you manage the symptoms at home. If they suspect a bacterial infection, antibiotics will probably be prescribed. While surgery to remove tonsils was once common, today it is usually only performed when tonsillitis occurs frequently, does not respond to other treatments or causes serious complications.

Other causes of a sore throat may include mono, though it is generally seen in older children and young adults, post-nasal drip from a sinus infection, allergies or sleeping with the mouth open. Sore throats caused by mouth breathing often go away a few hours after waking up.

More serious causes include an abscessed tonsil and epiglottis. An abscessed tonsil is a bacterial infection that can spread to the surrounding tissues. Symptoms of an abscessed tonsil may include one-sided throat pain, severe trouble swallowing, fever and trouble fully opening the mouth. It is rare that an abscess will restrict breathing, but if it does, take your child to the emergency room immediately.

Epiglottitis is a bacterial infection in the tissue above the vocal cords. Symptoms may include severe sore throat, drooling, spitting and fever. Epiglottis is a serious condition that can close off the airway, and you should call 911 right away if you suspect it.

Penn Highlands Healthcare offers otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) care for patients of all ages. Penn Highlands’ experienced ENT team also treats patients with tonsil or adenoid infections, breathing problems, allergy and sinus issues, cleft palate, voice or swallowing problems, nose bleeds, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and much more. To make an appointment or to learn more, visit