A strep test looks for infection caused by bacteria called group A streptococcus.
A strep test is done to find out if strep bacteria are causing a sore throat. If the test finds strep bacteria, your child’s healthcare provider will probably prescribe antibiotics. Treatment with antibiotics may help your child feel better sooner than if your child does not have treatment. More importantly, it also lowers the chance of more serious problems that can be caused by strep, such as heart problems. Most other common causes of sore throat do not usually need treatment with antibiotics.
It is best not to take any antibiotics before a check for strep. Tell the healthcare provider if your child took antibiotics during the 3 days before the test.
The strep test may be done in 2 ways: a rapid strep test or a throat culture. For either test your healthcare provider gets a sample by rubbing a cotton swab against a tonsil in the back of the throat. The sample is sent to a lab.
Ask your healthcare provider when and how you will get the result of the test.
Usually, a positive strep test result means that your child has strep, and a negative result means that your child does not have strep throat.
Although these tests are very precise, they are not perfect. Cultures are more accurate and reliable than rapid tests. A culture may be done even though a rapid test is negative to make sure your child does not have a strep infection. The strep culture test also provides more information than the rapid strep test. In addition to showing whether your child has strep throat, it may show the specific kind (strain) of strep bacteria infecting the throat. It can help your healthcare provider know which antibiotic will be most effective in treating the infection. For this reason, your provider may not prescribe an antibiotic until the results of a culture test are back.
If the test result is positive, ask your provider: