This past week my older son has been unwell with a fever but no other symptoms. Maybe he had a mild cough but otherwise seemed okay. A few nights found him coming into our room and the heat raging of him indicated to me he’d had a fever. The inevitable phone call from the school telling us that he was sick came and he ended up staying home just one day and actually seemed pretty good that day except for not having much of an appetite.
So imagine my surprise when I go to pick him up from school the other day and his teacher (who knows that I am a physician) tells me that six children are away with strep throat. Six! I thank her for the information and immediately turn to my son, take out my phone, turn the flashlight on and look in his throat.
The white spots on his tonsils are pus, or exudate. Probably from a strep infection. He hadn’t had much of a fever in 24 hours so I decided to wait to get him tested. This morning he woke up with no fever, but complained of his tummy hurting every time he tried to eat something. Husband and I wondered if it was his throat that was actually causing him pain. Kids are kind of dumb when it comes to being able to tell you where it hurts, I find.
Anyway, husband worried that our son had already had the infection for a few days and would be more susceptible to complications (post-streptococcus auto-immune diseases) so I took him to my office in the hopes of getting a rapid strep culture done.
Now, it’s hard enough to take a throat swab for a 4.5 year-old patient in the office, imagine trying to do it on your own son? I had to bribe him with a cookie his grandmother made. When he saw the how long the “Q-tip” swab was he panicked and covered his mouth. I told him it would be really fast and that we had to do it or he wouldn’t get the cookie. “Oh fine,” he said. So he opened his mouth and I was able to get a really, really, really quick swab of that tonsil. After lots of crying and “Ow! Mommy, that hurt!” there was no way he was going to comply again. Looking at the swab, I could see I had gotten a bit of that junk off, so I proceeded with the test.
The rapid strep kit really helpful in the office. Normally a throat swab takes 48 hours to get results. With these rapid kits I can have an answer in 5 minutes. I also really like doing them because it’s like a little science experiment I can do right in the office! It definitely makes a typical day more interesting.
Very much like a pregnancy test, one line is negative for strep and two lines is positive.
My son’s test had a very faint second line. Given the history of six other children in his class with strep infections, his on and off again fever, lethargy and lack of appetite, not to mention the tonsils looking the way they did, I elected to treat him. Yes, I should have taken him to his own pediatrician but I didn’t. After a couple of doses of Amoxicillin, he is already looking better.
Sometimes it’s really convenient being a doctor mom.