Watch for red marks on your kids – could be a sign of strep throat affecting sinuses

Moms share a lot online and there’s many an online group that has supported parents through just about everything. Of course, they’re not always a good place to get real medical advice.

But in a case that went viral in 2019, a child’s confusing condition really did turn out to be the rare form of strep that his parents warned people about.
In a post that has since been deleted, Idaho parents Arden and Ashley Howley shared a photo of their son, Coop, with a large butterfly-shaped red mark on his face.

At first, they thought the mark was “compliments of his little brother,” but soon realized that Coop needed a doctor.
While the boy was first prescribed a steroid, they eventually found out on a later trip to the ER that it was a unique kind of strep throat.
“After seeing a personal physician who gave him a steroid that only made it worse since he didn’t know what it was, we came to the ER at eirmc where they determined he had strep throat but in his sinuses and obviously in his face,” Howley wrote.
It turns out Coop had a form of strep throat called invasive Group A Streptococcal Disease, or iGAS. This is caused by the same bacteria as regular strep throat but in some cases, it gets into the bloodstream and can infect the nasal passages, sinuses, face, and other organs, including the brain. It can be fatal.

“It could have been really bad[…] had we not came in, they told us it will continue to migrate through there eyes and into their brain if not treated,” Coop’s dad reported.
iGAS is a relatively rare condition, but the Hawleys wanted to share the photo in case anyone else out there was suffering without answers.
“They believe we caught his in time but please take this and show as far and wide as you can. It may save someone’s babies.”

Coop’s story led another mom to get her son to the doctor just in time. She shared the drama on the Facebook page for “Simply Real Moms.”

After she saw the Howley’s post, the mom knew there was something more to her son’s illness when he woke up with a fever and red marks on his face:
“Last Tuesday my youngest son woke up with a fever so we geared up for yet another flu victim in the house. On Thursday morning he was looking bad and I noticed weird red marks on his face… I started to worry a little because I had recently seen another mother’s post about marks on her child’s face and how serious it ended up being but couldn’t remember what it was or who had shared the post to even search for it. By that evening, my son was covered in a splotchy rash… I was hoping in my heart that he just had a fever rash and put him to bed,” she wrote.

The next morning when the marks and fever were still there, she took him to the doctor who wanted to test for strep throat. And her son tested positive for both strep and influenza.
“…the Dr said that a rash and the facial marks are common symptoms. I had NO idea and apparently neither does anyone I’ve told over the past few days and so I feel obligated to let other parents know about these unknown indicators that your child is suffering from strep.”

Another set of photos was shared by Oklahoma mom Candace Reeves McMahan whose son Luke had strep and influenza that affected his eyes. She said the photos were important to circulate so parents know what to look out for.

Had they not caught things in time, the bacteria could have migrated to his brain. As it was, he needed surgery to drain the pus from his eyelids.

In the end, all three children recovered from their illness after antibiotic treatment, but their doctors confirmed that they caught the condition just in time.

The posts weren’t designed to raise hysteria – since the complications of strep are rare – but simply to give parents a piece of information that they may not already have.

As always, the best way to avoid getting strep or the flu is to get your flu shot, wash hands thoroughly, and to avoid overusing antibiotics for anything other than a diagnosed bacterial infection.

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