Why Your Kid May Have Strep and You Don’t Know It

There are some things that people just don’t prepare you for as a parent. Like the time I was holding my baby up in the air and talking to her and she threw up in my mouth. Another thing people don’t seem to warn us fellow parents about is all the different kinds of illnesses out there. Like strep. Sure we’ve all heard of the step that shows up in your kids’ throats. But let me tell you from personal experience that there’s another type of strep that kids can get…and it can be a bit of a surprise.

Step Throat

A few years ago, I was driving with my husband and children from Northern California down to Southern California to visit family for Thanksgiving. What started out as a sore throat at 8am when we were leaving the San Francisco area was a raging fire in my throat and a high fever 6 hours later when we finally reached the LA area. I finally had my husband drop me off at the local ugent care clinic and sent him to his sister’s house with the kids. Sure enough, it was strep throat…and it was miserable.

Even if you have never had strep throat yourself, if you have kids, especially ones in school, you’ve probably dealt with strep. It starts out as a sore throat and eventually develops into a fever, swollen lymph nodes and even a headache, rash or stomach upset. And as any school teacher can tell you, strep is highly contagious (and highly miserable). But since the symptoms can range from mild to pretty darn bad, the only way you can tell if it’s strep and not something else is a culture at the doctor’s office. So if strep is going around and either you or your kid feels crummy, give the doctor a call and head on in for a strep test.

Peri-Anal Strep

A few weeks ago, I got an email from my four-year-old son’s preschool teacher warning everyone that there was a confirmed case of strep in the class. A day or two later, he was awake in the middle of the night with ear pain, so when I took him in to the pediatrician’s office to get his ear checked, I had them swab him for strep just in case. Sure enough, the test was positive. They put him on antibiotics and things cleared up pretty quickly. However, a day or two later my two-year old started acting really, really cranky. But he didn’t have a fever and his throat looked okay to me, so I figured it wasn’t strep. After a few miserable days of a miserable two-year old, I finally threw up my hands and took him in to the pediatirician. I was right – his throat was fine.

Now here’s the surprising part – the doctor told me that there is another place that kids can get strep. In their bottom. Yup. Their tush, the butt, anus, whatever you want to call it, strep can develop there. Did you know that? I sure didn’t. The technical term is “perianal streptococcal cellulitis” according to my doctor, and the symptoms can really vary. Usually there’s a bright red, painful looking around the anus (check) and one irritable toddler or kid (check). Sometimes this is accompanied by painful bowel movements and itching around the anus. My little guy didn’t seem to have these symptoms but boy, that tush was bright, bright red. Sometimes the child can develop a fever, but like with my son it doesn’t always happen, so this can be a tricky diagnosis.

When to Call the Doctor

The other difficult thing with all of this is that telling the difference between diaper rash and anal strep can be hard, especially if your little one can’t quite tell you what’s going on down there. I knew my son’s tush was red and sore looking, but I treated it by slathering diaper cream on him because I thought it was just diaper rash. Plus, if your child isn’t running a fever and is just acting cranky, figuring out what’s wrong can be tough. But now I know – if there’s a bright red rash around the anus that doesn’t improve with regular applications of diaper cream, call your pediatrician. In addition, if strep has been going around, especially around your family, both the sore throat and the sore tushy variations of strep are a strong possibility. Call your doctor and ask for a swab test just to make sure you know what’s going on and to get a prescription of antibiotics if necessary. Your kids’ tush will thank you.

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