Sore throats in children
Acute sore throats are a very common illness in toddlers and children. They tend to be more common in winter. Helping your child rest, stay hydrated, and away from smoke and dry air may help bring comfort and relief.
What causes acute sore throats?
Infections such as colds are the most common causes of sore throats. Bacterial infections may also cause sore throats in children (usually older than three years) but they are not as common. Other conditions such as mouth ulcers can also cause a sore throat.
Signs and symptoms of a sore throat
Signs and symptoms of a sore throat in older children
Signs and symptoms in older children associated with infections may include:
- Runny nose
- Sore ears
- Poor appetite
- Aches and pains
Signs and symptoms in older children associated with a bacterial infection may include:
- Swollen neck glands
- Swollen red tonsils
- Stomach pain
Signs and symptoms of sore throat in babies and toddlers
Children under 2 years of age usually won’t tell you they have a sore throat. Babies or toddlers who refuse their favourite foods or drink may have a sore throat. They may also start to cry during feedings. This can cause a decrease in fluids. The main risk of not drinking enough fluids is dehydration. Speak to your healthcare professional if you have a child under 2 years of age with suspected sore throat or dehydration.
Caring for a sore throat
Caring for a sore throat in older children
Keep your child well hydrated — The pain of sore throat may discourage drinking. Encourage your child to continue drinking fluids to prevent dehydration. Water, vegetable juices, broths, honey and lemon in warm water may soothe and help hydrate. Cold liquids or ice blocks may also help, especially for summer months. Check out our top recipes to help with a sore throat.
- Humidify the air — Dry air due to weather, heating or air conditioning can aggravate a sore throat. Use humidifiers in your young child’s bedroom and living space to moisten the air.
- Use gargles — If your child is old enough to gargle (over six years old), then make a warm saltwater gargle or use a specialised sore throat gargle product like Betadine Ready To Use Sore Throat Gargle to help relieve a painful or irritated throat. Remember that neither of these should be swallowed, and you should always speak with a healthcare professional before providing to children.
- Give your child hard sweets or throat lozenges — Lozenges or hard sweets (for children over six years of age only) help stimulate saliva and moisten the throat. These are not recommended for children under six years old as they may be a choking hazard.
- If necessary, give your child an analgesic — Pain relief may be required. Speak to your healthcare professional about which pain relief option is appropriate for your child.
- Eat soft foods — Avoid foods that cause pain when swallowing. Soft foods such as yoghurt, soup or rice pudding can be a soothing choice.
- Rest — Rest is essential to help the body recover from infection.
- Relieve your child’s blocked nose — Helping to clear your child’s blocked nose will reduce reliance on mouth breathing, which can dry out a sore throat.
Caring for a sore throat in babies and toddlers
- Keep your child well hydrated — Make sure your baby or toddler has plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Relieve your child’s blocked nose — Helping to clear your child’s blocked nose will reduce reliance on mouth breathing which can further dry out a sore throat.
- Use pain relief, if necessary — Pain relief may be required. Speak to your healthcare professional about which pain relief option is appropriate for your baby or toddler.
- See your doctor — See your doctor if:
- They have a sore throat for longer than 48 hours
- They are drinking poorly for longer than 24 hours
- They have a new skin rash or bruising or
- They have difficulty swallowing
- They have a stiff neck or headache
- You are concerned
Sore throats are a common part of childhood. Parents can help provide comfort and support until the symptoms pass. If your child’s symptoms are not improving with home care or other symptoms develop that you are concerned about, seek medical attention. Always seek advice from your healthcare professional before administering any medication to your child.
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