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A Journal on Pediatrics, Neonatology, Adolescent Medicine,
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

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Minerva Pediatrica 2014 February;66(1):69-76


language: Italian

Diagnosis and management of acute pharyngotonsillitis in the primary care pediatrician’s office

Vicedomini D. 1, Lalinga G. 2, Lugli N. 2, D’Avino A. 3

1 A.S.L. Napoli 1 Centro, Napoli, Italia; 2 A.U.S.L. Modena, Modena, Italia; 3 A.S.L. Napoli 3 Sud, Napoli, Italia


Acute pharyngotonsillitis is one of the most frequent causes of visits in the primary care pediatrician’office. Group A b-hemolytic streptococci (GABHS) or Streptococcus pyogenes causes 15-30% of cases of acute pharyngotonsillitis in pediatric age. Children with pharyngotonsillitis due to GABHS commonly present sore throat, fever more than 38 °C, tonsillar exudate, and tender cervical adenopathy, but the severity of illness ranges from mild throat pain to classic exudative tonsillitis with high fever. The McIsaac criteria is a clinical scoring system to predict the likelihood of streptococcal infection among children. This score is based on 5 clinical criteria: age 3-14 years, fever more than 38°C, tonsillar swelling or exudate, tender and enlarged anterior cervical lymph nodes, and absence of cough, but none of these findings is specific for GABHS pharyngotonsillitis. Culture of a throat swab on a blood agar plate (BAP) remains the gold standard for the diagnosis of acute streptococcal pharyngotonsillitis. Because of the major disadvantage of culturing throat swabs on BAP culture is the delay in obtaining the results (at least 1 day), in the past decades rapid antigen detection test (RAD) were introduced for the rapid identification of GABHS directly from throat swabs. Accurate diagnosis and treatment of GABHS pharyngotonsillitis provides positive benefits, including prevention of complications, such as acute rheumatic fever and peritonsillar abscess and reduce the acute morbidity associated with the illness. Conversely, improper diagnosis may result in negative consequences, including unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions that confer increased health care costs and contibute to the development of bacterial resistance.

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