The terms sore throat, strep throat, and tonsillitis often are used interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing. Tonsillitis refers to tonsils that are inflamed. Strep throat is an infection caused by a specific type of bacteria, Streptococcus. When your child has a strep throat, the tonsils are usually very inflamed, and the inflammation may affect the surrounding part of the throat as well. Other causes of sore throats are viruses and may only cause inflammation of the throat around the tonsils and not the tonsils themselves.

In infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, the most frequent cause of sore throats is a viral infection. No specific medicine is required when a virus is responsible, and the child should get better over a seven- to ten-day period. Often children who have sore throats due to viruses also have a cold at the same time. They may develop a mild fever, too, but they generally aren’t very sick.

Signs and Symptoms

Infants and Toddlers usually have viral infections causing a red sore throat and not a bacterial process.  If a fever and red throat lasts more than 3 days without any other cols symptoms (runny nose or cough) then they should be seen to look for strep.  Children over three years of age with strep are often more ill; they may have an extremely painful throat, fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celsius), swollen glands in the neck, and pus on the tonsils.  Some children also complain of a headache or stomach ache and may actually vomit.

What You Can Do

Strep throat needs to be treated with antibiotics in order to prevent rheumatic heart disease as a complication.  Therefore it is necessary to test for strep if the classic symptoms described above are present.  It is important to finish the entire antibiotic course if diagnosed with strep even though your child will feel better shortly after antibiotics are started.  This completion is needed to prevent Rheumatic Heart Disease.


Most types of throat infections are contagious, being passed primarily through the air on droplets of moisture or on the hands of infected children or adults. For that reason, it makes sense to keep your child away from people who have symptoms of this condition. However, most people are contagious before their first symptoms appear, so often there’s really no practical way to prevent your child from contracting the disease.