What’s Going Around: strep throat, colds and ear infections

As we approach cold and flu season when many illnesses are viral, but UPMC Pinnacle’s Heritage Pediatrics reminds parents not to forget about strep throat.

Providers there are still seeing cases of strep throat, which is a bacterial infection in the throat and tonsils. The main symptom is usually a very sore throat that makes swallowing painful and difficult. However, some children have other symptoms, such as belly pain and vomiting, and often a headache. There is often, but not always, a fever associated with strep throat.

“If your child has these symptoms they should be seen and tested for strep throat,” Dr. Kathleen Zimmerman said. “Most offices have a fairly reliable quick throat swab test that can give results in a few minutes. Or sometimes another swab of the throat is sent to a lab and takes about two to three days to get results. The only way to confirm strep throat is with a test.”

If the strep test is positive your child will need antibiotics, Zimmerman said. Strep throat can lead to other problems if left untreated. However, if the tests are negative and your child has a virus, they should not take antibiotics.

Lancaster General Health Physicians Roseville Pediatrics has continued to see a high number of viral colds and sore throats.

Strep throat is also on the rise there this week, along with pneumonias in both the younger and older age groups.

On a different front, we also have seen an increase in impetigo, which is a rash that gets infected by strep bacteria on the skin.

There has been an increase in hand, foot and mouth infection cases as well this week.

Dr. Joan Thode offered the following advice about impetigo:

“Impetigo is an infection of the skin with streptococcal bacteria.

It frequently occurs on the face and can look like a red rash, often with a crust on top. The crust often has a yellow color to it, frequently described as “dried honey.” This rash technically can be anywhere on the body, though we often see it on the face, frequently at the corners of the nose and mouth. This rash can be painful, though it frequently doesn’t bother the child at all.

Any crusting rash, a rash that does not get better after a week or so, or a rash that seems to get progressively redder should be evaluated by a doctor.

Impetigo is treated with a topical antibiotic cream and sometimes additional oral antibiotics, depending on the severity of the infection.

Other rashes also can have various forms of crusting, such as fungal infections, psoriasis and eczema, so it’s always a good idea to have any kind of ‘crusting rash’ evaluated.”

WellSpan Medical Group providers are seeing a rise in rhinovirus, the most common cause of the common cold, and adenovirus, which can cause a wide range of illnesses from sore throat and fever to gastroenteritis.

With the cold weather here and people spending more time indoors, WellSpan Medical Group providers remind people that techniques such as frequent hand-washing and coughing into the inside of your elbow can reduce the risk of infection.

In addition, WellSpan Medical Group providers are also seeing an increase in allergic sinus issues or sinusitis cases. For those affected, over-the-counter allergy medication, decongestants and sinus washes may help.

The pediatricians of Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey are seeing a lot of rhinovirus, which causes the common cold, in their clinics. They say that it is, by far, the most predominant illness this week.

They also report a recent spike in parainfluenza, a group of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses, including croup in infants and young children.

They have also seen a lot of ear infections.

Medical experts at Summit urgent cares and walk-in clinics in Franklin and Cumberland counties report seeing an increase in patients with coughs, congestion, sore throats, and ear pain.

Viral illness do not require antibiotics. In fact, when taken unnecessarily, antibiotics will not help you get better faster or even feel better.

Over-the-counter medicines such as cough drops can help ease symptoms and it is important to stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. However, if symptoms worsen or last longer than you think they should, you should be seen by a health-care provider, they said.