Strep Throat: How Soon Can Kids Go Back to School?

By Tara Haelle
WebMD Health News

Sept. 3, 2015 -- Children treated for strep throat with the prescription drug amoxicillin might be able to return to school the next day without putting other kids at risk for catching the illness, suggests a study published online in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.

But parents, take note: Current national and state public health recommendations say that children shouldn't go back to school for at least 24 hours after a medical test shows they have group A strep -- the bacteria that cause strep throat -- and they begin antibiotics.

Yet a handful of small studies have found that such a test result is unlikely as early as 18 hours after taking the antibiotic.

"In families where there are no stay-at-home parents the results of this study are meaningful," writes Richard Schwartz, MD, from Inova Children's Hospital, and colleagues.

"If amoxicillin as a single dose is ingested by 5 p.m. (at least 12 hours before arrival at school the following day), a return to school the next morning should be permitted" by state guidelines, he writes.

Such a policy change could lead to significant financial savings, improved school attendance, and fewer "sick days" off from work for parents, the study authors say.

The researchers enrolled 111 children who had group A strep, according to two medical tests, when they visited a pediatric practice in Vienna, VA, between August 2013 and March 2015.

The children had their throats swabbed and received an initial dose of amoxicillin. Between 12 and 23 hours after that first dose, all children returned for another throat swab, ear temperature reading, and throat exam.

On the second day, the two medical tests couldn't detect group A strep in 91% of the children.

And there was no significant difference between those who had received a second antibiotic dose that morning compared with those who hadn't yet received their second dose, the researchers found.

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SOURCE: Schwartz, R. Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, published online Aug. 20, 2015.

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