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Health Information For Parents
A throat culture or strep test is performed by using a throat swab to detect the presence of group A streptococcus bacteria, the most common cause of strep throat. These bacteria also can cause other infections, including scarlet fever, abscesses, and pneumonia.
A sample swabbed from the back of the throat is put on a special plate (culture) that enables bacteria to grow in the lab. The specific type of infection is determined using chemical tests. If bacteria don’t grow, the culture is negative and the person doesn’t have a strep throat infection.
Strep throat is a bacterial infection that affects the back of the throat and the tonsils, which become irritated and swell, causing a sore throat that’s especially painful when swallowing. White or yellow spots or a coating on the throat and tonsils also might be present, and the lymph nodes along the sides of the neck may swell.
Strep throat is most common among school-age children. The infection may cause headaches, stomachaches, nausea, vomiting, and listlessness. Strep throat infections don’t usually include cold symptoms (such as sneezing, coughing, or a runny or stuffy nose).
While symptoms of strep throat can go away within a few days without direct treatment, doctors will prescribe antibiotics to help prevent related complications that can be serious, such as rheumatic fever. Taking antibiotics reduces the length of time a person is contagious.
The throat culture test can help find the cause of a sore throat. Often, a sore throat is caused by a virus, but a throat culture will see if it’s definitely caused by strep bacteria, helping doctors decide on the proper treatment.
Encourage your child to stay still during the procedure. Be sure to tell the doctor if your child has taken any antibiotics recently, and try to have your child avoid antiseptic mouthwash before the test as this could affect test results.
A health professional will ask your child to tilt his or her head back and open his or her mouth as wide as possible. If the back of the throat cannot be seen clearly, the tongue will be pressed down with a flat stick (tongue depressor) to provide a better view. A clean, soft cotton swab will be lightly brushed over the back of the throat, over the tonsils, and over any red or sore areas to collect a sample.
You may wish to hold your child on your lap during the procedure to prevent movement that could make it difficult for the health professional to obtain an adequate sample.
Your child may have some gagging when the swab touches the back of the throat. If your child’s throat is sore, the swabbing may cause brief discomfort.
Throat culture test results are generally ready in 2 days.
Throat swabbing can be uncomfortable, but no risks are associated with a throat culture test.
Explaining the test in terms your child can understand might help ease any fear. During the test, encourage your child to relax and stay still so the health professional can adequately swab the throat and tonsils.
If you have questions about the throat culture strep test, speak with your doctor.
If you’ve ever gone to the doctor with a really sore throat, you may have had a strep screen.
Everybody’s heard of tonsils, but not everyone knows what tonsils do in the body or why they may need to be removed. Find out here.
A tonsillectomy is surgery to remove the tonsils. It’s one of the most common surgeries kids and teens get. Find out more.
The test for strep throat doesn’t hurt, but it might make you gag a little. Watch how it’s done in this video for kids.
This video shows what it’s like to get a strep test.
Meningitis is treatable, but can be serious. So it’s important to know the symptoms, and get medical care right away if you think that your child has the illness.
Sore throats are usually caused by viruses. Here’s what to do if your child has a sore throat.
A peritonsillar abscess is an area of pus-filled tissue at the back of the mouth, next to one of the tonsils. Find out how it happens and what to do.
Older kids and teens with tonsilitis sometimes develop this painful abscess, a pus-filled tissue at the back of the mouth.
A rapid strep test is done to help quickly determine whether a sore throat is caused by a strep infection vs. other germs (usually viruses) that don’t require antibiotic treatment.
Strep throat is a common cause of sore throat in kids and teens. It usually requires treatment with antibiotics, but improves in a few days.
Scarlet fever is an illness caused by a strep infection. It causes a red, bumpy rash that spreads over most of the body, and is treated with antibiotics.
Strep throat is a common infection that usually needs to be treated with antibiotics. Find out how to recognize the signs of strep throat and what to expect if you have it.
If your tonsils get infected, it can make your throat feel very sore. Find out more in this article for kids.
You wake up and your throat is swollen and you have a fever. Could it be tonsillitis? Find out what tonsillitis is, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.
Tonsillitis is an infection that makes tonsils swollen and red. It can cause a sore throat, fever, swollen glands, and trouble swallowing.
Strep throat gives you a sore throat and makes it hard to swallow. Find out more in this article for kids.
Pneumonia is a lung infection that can be caused by different types of germs, most commonly viruses. Read about symptoms and treatment.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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