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It's Not Just a Sore Throat: Dangerous Complications of Untreated Strep Throat

It's Not Just a Sore Throat: Dangerous Complications of Untreated Strep Throat

While anyone can fall victim to the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes that causes strep throat, children and teens tend to develop the condition more easily. Noted for its fast onset without other symptoms that typically accompany respiratory illnesses like a cold or the flu, strep throat can be very painful and may make it hard for your child to swallow. 

Strep throat may be a common childhood illness, but it’s not a condition to take for granted. As a bacterial infection, it may not clear up on its own, and it can spread to other parts of the body. Dr 2 Kids, Smita Tandon MD specializes in strep throat care. Prompt diagnosis and treatment assures that strep throat remains a short-term, minor ailment for your child. 

Strep throat basics

The obvious symptom of strep throat is a sore throat, but it’s one with a difference. Your child could be fine first thing in the morning but under the weather by midday. Sore throat symptoms dominate the condition, and it may also produce a fever, but unlike other common sore throats, there won’t be any coughing. 

Other symptoms of strep throat include: 

Your child requires an antibiotic to clear their system of the streptococcus bacteria. Medication usually relieves the worst symptoms quickly, but it’s important to follow the instructions that Dr. Tandon provides you. Discontinuing the medication too soon may not clear up all bacteria. 

Complications of untreated strep throat

While it’s possible for your child’s body to overcome strep throat without antibiotics, this risks some dangerous complications and threats to your child’s health. While complications are rare, they can be serious and antibiotic treatment effectively protects against them. 

Rheumatic fever

The strep bacteria can trigger immune system responses. Rheumatic fever generates high body temperatures, as its name suggests. It also affects joints with arthritis-type pain, and it can cause symptoms of congestive heart failure like shortness of breath and chest pain. 

Jerky, involuntary movements called chorea emerge when rheumatic fever affects the nervous system. Your child may be listless and easily fatigued. Other effects on the heart could include enlargement, fluid around the heart, or a heart murmur.

Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis (PSGN)

Another immune system response can lead to serious kidney disease. It can take as little as 10 days after the start of strep throat symptoms for PSGN to develop if your child isn’t treated. The most obvious symptoms affect the urinary tract. Lower amounts of urine may accompany a reduced need to urinate. When your child does go to the bathroom, their urine may be dark and red-brown in color. 

Your child’s face may seem puffy around the eyes and their hands and feet can be swollen too. Since PSGN causes low iron levels in the blood (anemia), they’ll feel chronically tired. Blood pressure may be elevated too. 

Other complications include skin rashes and infections spreading to the ears, skin, and other parts of the body. Scarlet fever may also accompany strep throat. 

Contact Dr 2 Kids, Smita Tandon MD at the first sign of strep throat. You can reach our office by phone or online. Symptoms subside soon after the start of treatment so book your visit as soon as possible to assure your child feels better quickly.

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