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What to know about strep throat in babies

Group A Streptococcus is a bacterium also known as group A strep (GAS). It causes infection of the bacteria known as strep throat.

Another type of strep bacterium is group B Streptococcus. This is also known as GBS (Group B strep). GBS mainly affects infants.

The main treatment for streptococcal infections is antibiotics.

Babies can from time to time get strep throat. If the illness is recurring, an underlying health condition can occur.

This article will look at the signs and causes of childhood strep throat. It will also look at therapies, complications, and advice on prevention.


A child crying while the mother is holding her
Strep throat is rare in children under 3 years of age, but a person should contact a doctor if their baby has any symptoms.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC), there is strep throat in about 3 in 10 children who have a sore throat.

People frequently associate with strep throat a sore throat, but most sore throats are not caused by strep.

For a variety of reasons, a sore throat can develop including non-strep bacteria , viruses and allergens.

Some Strep throat signs include:

  • a sore throat with rapid onset
  • painful swallowing
  • fever
  • swollen, inflamed tonsils that may have white patches or pus
  • red spots on the roof of the mouth, called petechiae
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • headache
  • nausea

Vomiting is a common symptom in kids too.

Strep throat seldom causes a sore throat in children younger than 3 years. Or it can cause:

  • irritability
  • cold symptoms
  • fever
  • feeding issues

If someone has a cough or stuffy nose, the sore throat is more likely due to a cold virus.

What causes strep throat in babies?

In infants younger than 3 years, strep throat is rare.

Children and babies sometimes get regular strep throat bouts. That may be because they sometimes come into contact with someone who is a strep carrier.

Do breastfeeding babies get strep throat

Although strep throat is rare in children, it can be contracted by anyone, including breastfed babies.

Some research indicates breast milk is safe during infancy from many infections. However, it is unknown if breastfed babies have a lower chance of getting a strep throat than babies fed with formula.


A simple strep test is the only way of confirming a diagnosis of a strep throat. A doctor can not confirm a diagnosis of strep by only inspecting a person’s throat.

If a strep test is negative but the doctor assumes a false negative, a swab of the throat culture may be taken.

Owing to the possibility of complications, such as rheumatic fever, doctors are more likely to take cultures off young people. In children below the age of 3, however, they seldom screen for strep throat.

How to treat kid with strep throat
Treatment for strep throats requires antibiotics, such as amoxicillin or penicillin. Within a few days of obtaining antibiotic medication the symptoms should resolve.


Untreated strep throat can result in rheumatic fever, which can harm the heart. Rheumatic fever is widespread in the 5–15 age group. However, it’s uncommon among anyone younger than 3 years.

Some rheumatic fever symptoms may include:

  • fever
  • joint swelling and pain
  • chest pain, difficulty breathing, a rapid heartbeat, and other heart-related symptoms
  • fatigue
  • uncontrollable body movements
  • nodules and rash, though these are rare

Other complications that can occur if strep bacteria spread to other parts of the body include:

  • ear and sinus infections
  • tonsil abscesses
  • post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis, which is a type of kidney disease

When to see a doctor

If an infant exhibits strep throat symptoms, a person may contact a physician. Strep throat may cause serious complications in infants without treatment.


Strep throat is rare in children but it needs prompt care to avoid complications when it happens.

Antibiotics are an inexpensive, strep throat treatment.


If an individual has strep throat, it is possible to get it again. It is a disease that is infectious and has no antidote.

Some methods of preventing strep spread include:

  • frequent hand-washing
  • covering the face when coughing or sneezing
  • using alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable
  • not sharing utensils and plates with people who are sick
  • avoiding contact with people who have strep and are still contagious

People are infectious if they have a fever and have not been taking antibiotics for 24 hours or more.

Group B strep (GBS)

Another bacterium which mainly affects infants is GBS. If an baby gets it within the first week of life, they may have an early onset of GBS infection and possibly have symptoms on their birth.

Children who later develop the disease may have no symptoms at birth and may appear healthy in their first week of life. The baby has GBS infection at a late stage when that occurs.

In babies some signs of GBS infection include:

  • fever
  • feeding problems
  • irritability
  • difficulty breathing
  • lethargy
  • a blue tinge to the skin

1 in 5 pregnant women bear GBS bacteria according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The bacteria live in both the genital and gastrointestinal tract. During pregnancy the bacteria can move over to the infant.

GBS can cause a large number of infections including:

  • pneumonia
  • meningitis
  • sepsis

Infants are at higher risk of getting GBS if a pregnant person:

  • tests positive for this bacteria late in their pregnancy
  • gets a fever while in labor
  • spends 18 or more hours in labor after their water breaks

One 2018 article suggests that GBS-contaminated breast milk may increase the risk of infants developing GBS infection late in the onset. But research also points to the therapeutic effects of breastfeeding.

Doctors diagnose GBS infections using blood or spinal fluid samples taken and tested. Receiving test results could take a few days. Doctors can often order X-ray of the abdomen.

Most people seeking prenatal care during pregnancy undergo routine bacterial screening for GBS.

Treatment of GBS infections requires antibiotics, such as ampicillin and penicillin, called beta-lactams. Doctors usually treat intravenous ( IV) antibiotics in children. IV fluids and supplemental oxygen can also be prescribed.

Babies who develop GBS infection can experience long-term complications such as developmental and deafness disabilities. In some 4–6 percent of children, GBS infection is fatal.

Newborns have a higher risk of developing GBS infection than other age groups. In the United States, about 930 infants develop a GBS infection at birth in an average year. Around 1,050 develop GBS infection at late onset.

Prevention measures for GBS infections include checking for GBS bacteria during pregnancy and prescribing antibiotics to those in the workplace that are more likely to transfer GBS bacteria on to them.

There is no conclusive research on how infants develop GBS infection from late onset. That means there are no successful preventive measures currently in place.


The most common forms of Streptococcus bacteria include GAS and GBS. Those bacteria cause a strep throat infection.

Strep throat is rare in children, and typically is treatable when it happens.

GBS infection is normal in newborns and babies, and can lead without treatment to serious complications. Doctors treat GBS infections with antibiotics much as with strep throat.

Chukwuebuka Martins

Chukwuebuka Martins is a writer, researcher, and health enthusiast who specializes in human physiology. He takes great pleasure in penning informative articles on many aspects of physical wellness, which he then thoroughly enjoys sharing to the general public.