How Dangerous Is Strep Throat For Children?

Many parents think of strep throat as a minor annoyance, an infection that makes kids feel pretty bad for a few days, but then is soon forgotten. For one family, though, strep turned tragic, when a 6-year-old ended up losing her leg due to complications from the infection. How dangerous is strep throat for children? While Tessa Puma's diagnosis serves as a cautionary tale for parents everywhere, it is also incredibly rare.

According to ABC News, Tessa, an Ohio kindergartner who loves to dance, previously came down with strep throat, and took the normal antibiotics for it. But then, when she got the flu not long after, she began to complain of pains in her limbs, and her doctors realized that something else was wrong — she was suffering from necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly (and scarily) known as flesh-eating bacteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, necrotizing fasciitis causes a serious infection of a membrane called the fascia. And the leading cause of necrotizing fasciitis is group A strep.

Even though most group A strep infections are easily treatable, Tessa was not so lucky. Her strep A bacteria turned into the rare disease, killing tissue in her leg. Her doctors realized that, in order to give her the best chance of survival, they needed to amputate her left leg.

Now, Tessa is recovering at Akron Children's Hospital, but she's not out of the woods yet. She will likely need additional surgeries to survive, and according to WSB-TV, doctors are worried that they may have to amputate her other leg.

It's a heartbreaking story. One of Tessa's dance teachers, Stacey Kopec, told Fox 8 News, "In the 28 years that I’ve been teaching dance, this is the most devastating thing that we’ve had to go through." If you'd like to help out Tessa's family during this tough time, you can donate on their YouCaring page, where they wrote,

We are so thankful for the kind words, prayers and thoughts for our warrior Tessa. Please keep cheering her on. As we embark on what will be a long journey we ask that if you are able to please contribute to the care of our little fighter. Thank you from our whole hearts.

All this said, the next time a child of yours gets strep throat, there's likely no need to worry that it's necrotizing fasciitis, unless he or she starts complaining of pain or soreness. Odds are it's just a normal, easily-treated infection. Tessa's case is incredibly rare, and all the more reason to send thoughts and comfort to her family in this painful time.