Children's Hospital Colorado

Strep Throat Exposure

Urgent or Emergency Care?

If you believe your child needs immediate attention and you have concerns for a life-threatening emergency, call 911. Not sure what counts as urgent and what's an emergency when your child is sick or injured? When it can't wait, know where to take your kids.

Help Me Decide

  • Close contact with someone who has a Strep throat infection.
  • Close contact means living in the same house with the infected person. It also includes close physical contact such as having a kissing relationship.

Strep Exposure (Close Contact)

  • Household Close Contact. Lives with a person whose Strep test was positive. This can be a sibling, parent, or other household member.
  • Kissing relationship with someone (boyfriend, girlfriend) who has a positive Strep test.
  • Close contact should be within 10 days of onset of symptoms in exposed child. Reason: Time from contact to Strep symptoms usually is 2 to 5 days.
  • Throat cultures and rapid Strep tests aren't urgent. Most can be done in your doctor's office.

Types of Limited Contact with Strep

  • Contact with someone outside the home with a positive Strep test. This type of contact occurs at school.
  • Sometimes, the contact is with someone who was treated for Strep without testing.
  • Children taking antibiotics for over 24 hours do not spread Strep to others.

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Great trouble swallowing fluids or spit
  • Trouble breathing or working hard to breathe
  • Fever over 104° F (40° C)
  • Dehydration suspected. (No urine in over 8 hours, dark urine, very dry mouth and no tears)
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent. (Note: a Strep test alone is not urgent)

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Sore throat pain is severe and not better 2 hours after taking ibuprofen
  • Age less than 1 year old
  • Earache or sinus pain (not just congestion)
  • Mild symptoms that could be from Strep throat. (Some are sore throat, cries during feeds, large lymph nodes in the neck, fever)
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent. (or needs a Strep test)

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Strep contact but no symptoms

Care Advice

Treatment for Contacts With Symptoms (Pending a Strep Test)

  1. What You Should Know About Strep Exposure and Sore Throats:
    • A Strep test is not urgent.
    • It could be a Strep throat or just a viral infection of the throat.
    • A sore throat is often part of a cold.
    • Until you get a Strep test, here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Sore Throat Relief:
    • Age over 1 year. Can sip warm fluids such as chicken broth or apple juice.
    • Age over 6 years. Can also suck on hard candy or lollipops. Butterscotch seems to help.
    • Age over 8 years. Can also gargle. Use warm water with a little table salt added. A liquid antacid can be added instead of salt. Use Mylanta or the store brand. No prescription is needed.
    • Medicated throat sprays or lozenges are generally not helpful.
  3. Pain Medicine:
    • To help with the pain, give an acetaminophen product (such as Tylenol).
    • Another choice is an ibuprofen product (such as Advil).
    • Use as needed.
  4. Fever Medicine:
    • For fevers above 102° F (39° C), give an acetaminophen product (such as Tylenol).
    • Another choice is an ibuprofen product (such as Advil).
    • Note: Fevers less than 102° F (39° C) are important for fighting infections.
    • For all fevers: Keep your child well hydrated. Give lots of cold fluids.
  5. Fluids and Soft Diet:
    • Try to get your child to drink adequate fluids.
    • Goal: keep your child well hydrated.
    • Cold drinks, milk shakes, popsicles, slushes, and sherbet are good choices.
    • Solids. Offer a soft diet. Also avoid foods that need much chewing. Avoid citrus, salty, or spicy foods. Note: Fluid intake is much more important than eating any solids.
    • Swollen tonsils can make some solid foods hard to swallow.
  6. Return to School:
    • Your child may have a Strep throat infection. Wait for the result of the rapid Strep test. If it is negative, your child can go back to school.
  7. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Your child becomes worse

Treatment for Contacts Without Symptoms

  1. What You Should Know About Strep Exposure Without Symptoms:
    • Many children have contact with someone with Strep throat. Most will not come down with an infection. This is especially true if the contact occurs outside the home.
    • Strep tests are not needed for children without any symptoms.
  2. Time It Takes to Get Strep Throat:
    • Time from contact to Strep symptoms usually is 2 to 5 days.
  3. Return to School:
    • If your child has no symptoms, he does not need to miss any school.
  4. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Your child gets any Strep symptoms in the next 7 days

Disclaimer

The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your child's doctor.
    • Your child's doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

If you think that your child is having a medical emergency, call 911 or the number for the local emergency ambulance service NOW!

And when in doubt, call your child's doctor NOW or go to the closest emergency department.

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