Parents are being thoroughly warned about a sudden rise in strep throat infections among children. While these infections are common during this time of year, the rise we’re currently seeing is far worse than what doctors are used to seeing, and they fear that it might get even worse before starting to settle down.
One pediatric infectious disease physician, Dr. Greg DeMuri of UW Health Kids, is surprised by the uptick in cases. “I’ve been in infectious diseases and pediatrics for 30 years, and I’ve never seen it this bad. We are at a level twice that of our worst year, looking back over the past 10, 20 years or so,” he told TODAY.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), strep throat is an ‘infection in the throat and tonsils caused by bacteria called group A Streptococcus.’ It’s described as highly-contagious, as it can be spread from one person to the next through direct contact and/or respiratory droplets.
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General symptoms of strep throat include a scratchy or sore throat, pain while swallowing, fever, red or swollen tonsils, and headaches. With that being said, doctors are also concerned about the rise in strep throat because many patients are showing atypical symptoms of the infection – if any symptoms at all.
Dakota Felckowski, a mother and pediatric nurse practitioner, took to TikTok to voice her own warning about the rise in strep throat patients – something she has experienced firsthand. “The interesting thing about these infections right now is the symptoms are not typical strep symptoms,” Felckowski warns.
While they’re still seeing the symptoms listed above, they’re also seeing more congestion, runny nose, and cough symptoms – which aren’t normally signs of strep throat. Not only are parents ignoring the symptoms (when they shouldn’t), but doctors are having a harder time diagnosing and treating it.
“I think there’s a lot of people out there being exposed (or parents who have a child that’s been exposed) and not necessarily looking for these symptoms,” she says – adding that some patients are showing no symptoms whatsoever. And while strep throat requires antibiotics to treat, many aren’t receiving them.
What to Do if You Suspect Strep Throat
Since strep throat is contagious and can easily be spread from one person to the next, parents are being urged to take action the moment an infection is suspected in their kids. If not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, they could potentially infect siblings, friends, classmates, and adults – including parents.
And with many patients today experiencing atypical symptoms, parents are being urged to seek a medical opinion anytime they’re exposed to someone who might have strep throat – even if they’re showing no symptoms at all. This can help prevent the rise in infections from getting any worse than it already is.
“The point is, if someone has a runny nose or a cough, that doesn’t mean it’s not strep. … It is still something to look into and maybe do a test to see it is strep throat or not,” says Dr. Alin Abraham, a pediatrician at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, in an interview with TODAY.
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As for why we’re seeing the rise in infections – as well as the atypical symptoms – many doctors believe the COVID-19 pandemic could be to blame. Many people took extra measures to prevent these infections during the pandemic, but they’ve now stopped taking those measures once restrictions were lifted.
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