Pharyngitis is one of the most common diseases in children, especially in the winter months. It manifests as a red, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and sometimes even fever
Child with pharyngitis: causes and remedies
When the child has a sore throat, perhaps due to a change in temperature or the classic seasonal viruses, very often it is the “fault” of the pharynx which, being the first tract of the upper respiratory tract, is more vulnerable to infectious agents and external factors. Pharyngitis, commonly called sore throat, is a very common complaint among children, especially during the colder months. It is a’inflammation of the mucosa which covers the pharynx and can be of a viral nature (therefore also originating from Covid-19), bacterial or irritative.
Not just sore throats: pharyngitis in children is also often accompanied by fever, headache, cough and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, all symptoms that can be very annoying. So let’s try to make an identikit of pharyngitis: how it manifests itself in children, what are the causes and how it is treated.
In this article
Pharyngitis in children, how it manifests itself
Every mother knows, a sore throat is one of the most common “ailments” in children, especially in autumn and winter when the classic seasonal ailments are always around the corner.
Pharyngitis in children, but also in adults, causes symptoms such as pain, redness and burning in the throat, difficulty swallowing and, in some cases, fever (even very high) and plaques, i.e. irregularly shaped and slightly raised dots that appear on the throat and tonsils.
The other symptoms usually associated with pharyngitis are:
- sense of foreign body in the throat;
- itchy feeling in the throat;
- lack of voice;
- inflammation of the lymph nodes in the neck;
- ear pain.
If the child is very sick, before administering any medication, it would be better contact the pediatrician and, if necessary, have it examined. In fact, sore throats are not all the same: sometimes they heal spontaneously, while other times they require specific treatments that vary depending on the cause.
The most common causes of pharyngitis
Pharyngitis is caused almost always from a virus and more rarely by a bacterium. Then there are some external factors such as smog, secondhand smoke and sudden changes in temperature that can help viruses and bacteria to infect the mucous membrane of the oral cavity.
In summary, pharyngitis can be caused by:
In some cases, too allergies could cause pharyngitis in children. In fact, contact with some allergens such as dust mites, animal hair or pollen causes a state of inflammation of the upper airways which can also extend to the mucous membrane of the pharynx.
If in addition to the sore throat the child also has the very high fever and persistent (above 38.5 – 39 degrees) accompanied by chills and associated with swollen lymph nodes located behind the ears, it is likely that it isbacterial strep infection. On the other hand, when the pain in the throat is modest and is associated with symptoms such as cold and dry cough, then it is more likely that it is a virus. In any case it is always better to consult the pediatrician who will carry out the diagnosis.
How is pharyngitis diagnosed
The pediatrician should look at the child’s throat to check for redness, swelling, and any plaque, but may also examine the ears, nose and, if present, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, always taking into account the presence (or absence) of fever and its duration. In addition to the visit, the pediatrician can prescribe tests to understand whether it is a viral or bacterial infection.
If the origin is viral
As we have seen, most pharyngitis are of viral origin and among the viruses that cause sore throats there is also SARS-CoV-2, the person in charge of Covid-19. For this reason, if your child has symptoms other than a sore throat, the pediatrician may order a rapid antigen test or molecular swab to be performed. Once Covid-19 and other serious infections such as measles and chickenpox have been ruled out, your doctor can recommend some pain relieving medications.
If the origin is bacterial
If, on the other hand, the pediatrician suspects pharyngitis of bacterial origin, in particular caused by streptococcus, he can perform a quick test (RADT) for the search for antigens of the bacterium which involves taking a small amount of secretions from the tonsils using a swab. As indicated by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, the test must be performed after two days of discomfort and the response arrives within a few minutes. If the test does not show the presence of strep, or if the doctor suspects another type of bacterial infection, a throat swab with culture and antibiogram will be prescribed. This way you can evaluate what is the most suitable antibiotic to cure the baby.
Pharyngitis and Covid-19
Will it just be a sore throat or could it be Sars-Cov-2 infection? It is a doubt common to many mothers, especially at this time of year when children are often sick. Unfortunately, the only way to really be sure it’s not Covid-19 is with a molecular swab or rapid antigen test. So, if the child has a sore throat associated with other symptoms that fall within those of Covid-19, the pediatrician can prescribe a tampon.
Recall that i main symptoms of Sars-Cov-2 infection in the pediatric population are:
Unfortunately, as you can easily guess, these are the same symptoms caused by the flu or other viral infections, which is why distinguishing the coronavirus from these diseases is very difficult. The only one different symptom that can manifest itself in the case of coronavirus compared to other flu syndromes is the loss of taste and smell, but sometimes Covid can also be totally asymptomatic, especially in children.
How is pharyngitis treated
If the pharyngitis is of viral origin, as it happens in most cases, then it will heal spontaneously in a short time, usually within a week. However, if the child feels a lot of discomfort, paracetamol, which has a pain-relieving effect, or ibuprofen which also has an anti-inflammatory action, can be administered, as recommended by the new guidelines of NICE, the National Institute for Healthcare Excellence and assistance from Great Britain.
When the child has pharyngitis it is important to make him drink lots of liquids, avoiding too hot drinks. If the child is old enough they can also be given balsamic candies. Also, in case some fever line is present, but …