testing swab

Strep throat is a common and highly contagious bacterial infection that is caused by the bacteria known as Group A Streptococcus (GAS).1 Doctors can easily test for strep throat via a rapid test.4 This means that the doctor takes a gentle swab from the back of the throat with a cotton swab and tests it for GAS. The results can be viewed within minutes.

Testing can be important since symptoms of strep throat are similar to some viral infections. If a strep test comes back positive, it can be treated with antibiotics.

If left untreated for long, a strep throat infection could lead to further complications and conditions such as kidney inflammation or Rheumatic fever amongst other things.1 Strep throat is known to affect children more commonly than adults.2

When to get a strep test?

The common symptoms of a strep throat infection can include:

  • Throat pain
  • Pain and difficulty in swallowing
  • Swollen red tonsils
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Body ache

How do at-home strep tests work?

At-home strep test kits, known as over-the-counter strep tests are now commonly available. These work just like the rapid test performed by a doctor. The test includes a cotton swab that can be used to take a sample from the throat. The swab is then placed in a mixture of different reagents that are provided in the kit. After a couple of minutes, a stick is inserted into the container containing the sample, after which specific lines will appear. The different lines are the results of  the test – either positive or negative depending on the lines that appear.4

Are at-home strep tests accurate?

Previous studies and analysis by scientists have shown that about 86% of rapid strep tests done at home are sensitive and give the correct results. This means that approximately 14% of the tests can provide a false negative result – meaning that a person may test negative even if they have strep throat.3

While at-home tests are faster and more convenient alternatives to other traditional methods of testing, it is important to follow up with your doctor if you have symptoms of strep throat to make sure that are prescribed the appropriate treatment for your infection. Antibiotics are typically prescribed for a strep infection.

References

  1. Strep throat. (2018).
    mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/strep-throat/symptoms-causes/syc-20350338
  2. Home tests for strep throat – Are they worth it? (2015).
    childrensmd.org/browse-by-age-group/toddler-pre-school/home-tests-for-strep-throat-are-they-worth-it/
  3. Cohen JF, et al. (2016). What is the performance of rapid tests for the diagnosis of strep throat in children?
    cochrane.org/CD010502/ARI_what-performance-rapid-tests-diagnosis-strep-throat-children
  4. Rapid strep testing. (2018).
    shs-manual.ucsc.edu/policy/rapid-strep-testing
  5. Image by Ewa Urban from Pixabay 

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