On Monday morning when your son says his throat hurts—again—you may think it’s the weekday blues. Itchy throat, burning and difficulty swallowing. When these symptoms occur along with coughing or a runny nose, it could be allergies or the common cold. But when the symptoms do not dissipate after a few days, could it be something more than the sniffles?

Why it keeps reoccurring

Strep throat (group A streptococcus) is a bacterial infection, not viral, requiring antibiotics. For some patients, even after several rounds of antibiotics, strep returns or never leaves. Recurring strep throat is when a patient is diagnosed with strep more than seven times in one year. At that point, doctors usually suggest a tonsillectomy. Once the tonsils are gone, the strep should be too. Yet why do strep infections still occur in children who’ve had tonsillectomies?

Genetic connection

A link has been discovered between children with chronic strep and their family history. The scientists from La Jolla Institute for Immunology studied a sample of 26 children aged five to 18 years. They found poor immune responses in the body’s ability to fight off group A strep. When researchers combed through patient medical histories, it was noted that strep was common in many family members’ medical histories. 

Possible vaccine

The results of this study armed scientists with information to possibly create a vaccine preventing tonsillitis from occuring. In turn, this vaccine could reduce the number of tonsillectomies and future cases of strep.  But what can parents do if the proverbial strep treadmill continues?

Seek immediate treatment

Isabella’s mother took her repeatedly to the doctor for debilitating abdominal pain that mirrored appendicitis. Seven months earlier, the teen had her tonsils removed due to chronic strep. After three weeks of constant doctor and emergency room visits, Isabella was diagnosed with group G strep after a urine culture returned positive. The illness went undetected for so long that it left the young teen with digestive and reproductive issues. Even after tonsillectomies, strep is still a real possibility. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for strep and urine cultures.

Keep your distance

It can be hard to live germ-free. Schools and daycares are places where germs love to spread. If your child is prone to strep, remind them to wash their hands after using the bathroom and before eating. Make sure they know to keep their hands away from their face as much as possible and to avoid resting their head on library and cafeteria tables. Lastly, remind them to always cover coughs and sneezes.   

Throw the toothbrushes away

If your child has recently been treated for strep, that means the infection was in their mouth and now lives on their toothbrush. In a family bathroom, toothbrushes tend to roost right next to one another. Once your child has been on antibiotics for 48 hours, throw away their toothbrush along with everyone else’s. Reinfection can occur, and some family members could be carriers yet not susceptible.   

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