My Child Has Frequent Sore Throats: Can You Help?

My Child Has Frequent Sore Throats: Can You Help?

Sore throats, medically called pharyngitis, are a common ailment, especially in children. If your child has frequent or recurrent sore throats, seeing an ear, nose, and throat specialist can get them back on the road to health.

At Oasis Ear, Nose, and Throat, otolaryngologists Dr. James Osborne and Dr. Bryan Smedley see many cases of sore throats at their Surprise, Arizona practice, many of them children. Since several different concerns can cause sore throats, their first step is to provide an accurate diagnosis, and then they follow up with a treatment plan. Here’s what’s involved.

Sore throat causes

A viral or bacterial infection usually causes garden-variety sore throats, and there is a wide range of both types of pathogens that can produce sore throats as a symptom. Sore throats associated with a runny nose or cough are more likely to be viral. Viral infections tend to clear on their own with a little TLC and about 7-10 days.

Mononucleosis, or “mono,” is another common cause, in this case, an Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection. It often presents with very large tonsils.

However, if your child doesn’t have these other symptoms, or if a high fever accompanies their sore throat, the doctor may recommend testing for strep throat, a bacterial infection we often treat with antibiotics.

Infections aren’t the only possible cause of a sore throat. Non-infectious causes tend to have milder symptoms. Some possibilities include:

Any sore throat that never resolves completely or that goes away and then returns is known as a “recurrent” or “chronic” sore throat. We treat most cases with observation, supportive care, or antibiotics if needed. It’s important to determine what’s causing these chronic cases, so the doctor can treat the underlying problem.

One possibility is inflammation of the tonsils, the immune system tissue at the back of the throat. We keep track of how many tonsillitis episodes your child has each year to help determine if it would be beneficial to have the tissue surgically removed. Every child is different, but in general, the topic comes up when they’ve had at least three episodes each year for the last three years or if there are multiple infections within the same year.

A sore throat can also come from breathing problems during sleep, and these problems are another common reason doctors evaluate the tonsils and adenoids and possibly remove them. A tonsillectomy procedure may improve your child’s quality of life, help them avoid antibiotics, and decrease missing out on school and social activities.

Is my child contagious?

If a viral or bacterial infection causes chronic pharyngitis, then it can be transmitted from one person to another through saliva, mucus, and nasal discharge. A number of viruses and bacteria can survive on surfaces for long periods, too, and these can spread the disease through the joint use of towels, toothbrushes, clothing, or eating utensils.

Viral pharyngitis is contagious as long as your child has symptoms. If the cause is bacterial, a course of antibiotics reduces the period of contagion. Generally, you’re not contagious after 24 hours of taking an effective antibiotic.

Treating chronic sore throats

Treatment for chronic pharyngitis depends on the underlying cause. We’ve already discussed tonsillectomies as a possible treatment when the tonsils are affected, but what about sore throats due to other underlying causes?

Environmental pollutants

Bad air quality, smoke, chemicals, or other environmental pollutants can lead to chronic pharyngitis. By avoiding the triggers as much as possible, the throat should heal, and the symptoms diminish.

Allergic reactions

If your child has seasonal or other allergies, nasal sprays, and other over-the-counter medications can effectively treat the sore throat. In severe cases, you may need stronger medication from your Oasis ENT provider.

Acid reflux

Stomach acid should stay in the stomach, where it helps digest food. However, the lower esophageal sphincter may not close properly in people with laryngopharyngeal reflux, allowing acid to move back up the GI tract. If your child’s sore throat is due to acid reflux, they may benefit from lifestyle changes, like changing their diet, losing excess weight, or taking medications formulated to reduce the symptoms.

If your child has a sore throat, it’s best to come into Oasis Ear, Nose, and Throat so our doctors can determine the underlying cause and provide a treatment plan that minimizes the discomfort while they heal. To learn more or to get started, call us at 623-207-7560, or book online with us today.

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