Strep throat is a common condition that affects adults and kids. My kids haven't had it yet, but if they ever get it, it's one of those illnesses that — in my book — warrants a doctor visit, antibiotics and a huge bowl of ice cream. I was never particularly concerned about the severity of strep throat, but having had it as an adult, I can remember all too well how bad it makes you feel.

As it turns out, there is more to be concerned about when it comes to strep throat then I realized. If left untreated, a strep infection can spread to other parts of the body, which can result in problems with a child’s heart, brain or joints. Researchers have also suspected that strep could cause problems if it reached the brain. A new study has shown that the suspicion is true.

According to research conducted at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Psychology, when strep hits the brain, it may compromise motor and mental functioning, leading to syndromes such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Using animal studies, the researchers were able to show exactly how strep affects the brain and how it can lay the groundwork for the development of OCD.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, OCD affects up to 2 percent of all children and adolescents in the U.S. Before you start to panic about your own child, please remember that almost all toddlers go through "obsessive" stages in which they have to get dressed in a certain order or have their toy soldiers lined up "just-so" before they leave the house. OCD is beyond these behaviors.

The disorder is characterized by recurrent intense obsessions and/or compulsions that may cause severe discomfort, anxiety and stress, and may interfere with day-to-day functioning. And with OCD, these obsessions or compulsions stick around well past the toddler stage.

So don't mess around with strep throat. If you think your child has it (fever, severe sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and white or red spots on the throat and tonsils,) be sure to get her checked out by your health care provider — and don't forget the big bowl of ice cream.

See also:

Strep throat symptoms

Strep throat linked to OCD
Researchers find that step throat, when left untreated, could lead to the development of obsessive compulsive disorder.