How to Treat Pharyngitis in Babies

Pharyngitis in babies is usually due to viruses such as adenovirus or enterovirus. However, it can also be of bacterial origin. Continue reading to find out the best course of action to counteract it.
How to Treat Pharyngitis in Babies

Last update: 27 September, 2021

Pharyngitis is a fairly common condition in babies, young children in general. It consists of inflammation of the mucous membrane that lines the throat, often caused by a viral infection. However, it can also be bacterial.

Detecting any disease in a baby is complicated since they can’t yet communicate verbally. Parents usually suspect it when the child becomes irritable or refuses to eat.

In general, babies require special attention and treatment. Today’s article will explain everything you should know about pharyngitis in infants and what to do about it.

Pharyngitis in babies

As mentioned above, pharyngitis is an inflammation of the mucous membrane lining the throat. Often, this condition tends to be overdiagnosed or confused with other health problems; a common cold, for example.

In fact, people often resort to the wrong treatments to manage the symptoms. There’s a ridiculous tendency to suggest the use of antibiotics for pharyngeal irritation. This is just wrong because it isn’t always due to bacteria.

First of all, note that not all respiratory infections with a sore throat indicate pharyngitis. Similarly, almost 70% of pharyngitis in infants is viral, so antibiotics don’t help at all.

This disease often appears during fall and winter. Moreover, it’s usually caused by an infectious pathogen so it’s contagious. Siblings being the most affected.

A baby crying.
Suspected pharyngitis in infants begins with prolonged and unexplained crying by the infant. It’s important to establish its cause in order to choose an appropriate treatment.

Causes of pharyngitis in infants

Many pharyngitis-causing viruses can afflict an infant. The exact cause isn’t clinically demonstrable though. In addition, this type of pharyngitis usually resolves on its own in less than five days.

Some of the viruses that can cause it are adenovirus, enterovirus, and herpes simplex virus. The clinical features of these have some characteristic features. For example, there’s usually inflammation of the preauricular ganglion in the case of adenovirus and there may also be conjunctivitis.

Enterovirus pharyngitis in infants usually predominates in summer or early autumn. Furthermore, the herpes virus can cause ulcerated vesicles on the palate or gums.

Bacterial pharyngitis in babies

Note that pharyngitis in infants can be bacterial although this is rare. In particular, the most widespread is due to a bacterium, Streptococcus pyogenes. Most cases occur in early spring.

This infection is relevant because it can produce a much more extensive clinical picture than pharyngitis. For example, it sometimes affects the skin or kidneys. Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics for it.

The symptoms of pharyngitis in babies

Pharyngitis is difficult for parents to detect in their infants, like many other conditions. This is because the little ones can’t communicate it and also because the signs tend to be non-specific. These babies are often restless and can’t sleep.

They’re also irritable and without any appetite. Some infants have a cry that’s somewhat different from normal and might also have a fever. In addition, some babies have swollen glands near the neck.

A person holding a thermometer.
Fever is one of the symptoms of pharyngitis in babies; they also become irritable.

Find out more about What Does Viral Load Mean?

Treatment for pharyngitis in babies

It’s best to consult a doctor if you suspect your baby might have pharyngitis. Indeed, 80% of the cases are due to a self-limited viral infection, but a professional must examine them and rule out other causes.

Viral pharyngitis doesn’t require treatment but the doctor may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen to relieve symptoms. It’ll reduce the pain.

Pharyngitis caused by Streptococcus pyogenes requires antibiotics. Physicians usually prescribe oral penicillin as it helps reduce the clinical symptoms and the risk of contagion.

Consult your pediatrician

This infection is common in infants and most cases are mild. However, it’s best to consult a pediatrician to learn how to manage it. Not all causes are bacterial, so don’t use antibiotics as the first course of action.

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