Anyone who has ever experienced strep throat knows the pain it can cause. You feel miserable, you cannot talk, you cannot eat. You know how awful it can be, and you never want to pass that feeling on to a baby.
Can I Give My Baby Strep Throat? Answer: Yes
Although rare, it is possible for a baby to catch strep throat from another person.
What Is Strep Throat?
Strep throat is pretty common and is a bacterial infection that shows up on the inside of the throat. What causes it is Streptococcus pyogenes, which is actually the culprit for a wide array of other diseases that are unrelated to strep throat.
When a child has strep, their immune system makes antibodies that can also attack normal kidney and heart cells. One result may be rheumatic fever, which can cause painful joints and damage to the valves of the heart. Rheumatic fever isn’t a killer, but kids who’ve had it can suffer heart problems throughout their adult lives. Strep throat that remains untreated can cause other problems, including throat abscess (a patch of white blood cells that may require surgical removal).
General Symptoms of Strep Throat
There are pretty common symptoms that come along with most cases of strep throat. These include a throat that is sore and bright red, that has patches of it that have swelled and may contain patches of white pus. There can also be a high fever that ranges from 101 to 104 degrees, a headache, swelling of the lymph nodes, as well as abdominal pain and vomiting which rarely occurs but can happen, as well as an accompanying rash which is also rare.
Symptoms can vary in their severity, sometimes the symptoms of strep throat can be quite mild. A point to note is that a sore throat is less likely to be strep throat if it is accompanied by cold symptoms such as a runny nose.
Signs and Symptoms Of Baby Strep Throat
When a baby has strep throat, he or she may cry when sucking their thumb, pacifier or bottle; be irritable and cry more often than normal; have a hoarse voice; and have a fever. If your child does not have a fever, it is highly unlikely they have strep, and their sore throat would be a symptom of another cold or flu.
Babies are more likely to catch a viral sore throat than strep. If your child does have a viral sore throat, antibiotics will not be helpful, and you will need to just threat the cold symptoms, pain and fever.
How Is It Spread?
Strep throat is a very contagious disease, but it is not as contagious as colds or the flu. People with strep throat pass the disease through airborne droplets, such as saliva. Due to the antibodies they receive before birth, children under the age of three tend to be less prone to getting strep throat than older children. Plus, most babies have very small tonsils, making it hard for the bacteria to latch on.
If you do end up passing strep throat on to your baby, symptoms will usually show up within five to seven days. Be sure to contact your child’s doctor immediately to get them started on an antibiotic. Do not give your baby any of your own leftover medicine, as the dosage will be too high and could have severe and fatal results.
How To Avoid Passing On Strep Throat
To be safe, if you have strep throat, do not kiss your baby on the mouth or share food or drink with them. Your passage of the disease will still be high until you have been on antibiotics for at least 24 hours. If your baby does have strep, be sure that older children do not kiss your baby or share any food, drink or utensils with him or her, as older children are more prone to catching strep throat.
Consider wearing a face mask to avoid droplets landing on your baby. Wash your hands frequently, even if another family member has strep throat not you. This will prevent droplets which have landed on your hands being accidentally transferred to your baby.
What to Do
If you think your baby might have strep throat, take him or her to the doctor’s office immediately. Most doctors today can diagnose strep throat within minutes using a rapid test. If the rapid test comes back negative, but your child is showing symptoms of strep throat, the doctor may still decide to do a culture swab of the back of your child’s throat. Culture swabs are then sent to a lab for verification, and you will have the results back within one to two days.
Sometimes in very young babies a doctor may be reluctant to do the test for strep throat, but if you are worried you should not hesitate to discuss your concerns with your doctor including asking for the strep throat test.
To cure strep, amoxicillin or other penicillins are commonly prescribed. Make sure your child takes the full dose of the prescription. Stopping a few days early after symptoms have cleared can give the remaining bacteria an opportunity to develop. These bacteria can then create a resistance to the drug, making the infection worse than it already was.
To reduce fever and pain, acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be used. Be sure to stick to the dosage instructions on the bottle. If you have any questions or concerns, contact your pediatrician or pharmacist.
Remember that while it is uncommon for babies under two years of age to catch strep throat, it is not impossible. If you or someone in your home has strep throat, do not let them share utensils or food with your baby. If you notice your baby has a fever or trouble swallowing, take them to the doctor immediately to get tested for strep throat.