A rapid strep test involves a quick throat swab. Within minutes, the test can show the presence of group A streptococcus bacteria, which can cause strep throat and other infections (including pneumonia, tonsillitis, scarlet fever, and meningitis). Strep throat is a bacterial infection that affects the back of the throat and the tonsils, which become irritated and swollen, often causing a severe sore throat, especially when swallowing. You may get white or yellow spots or a coating on the throat and tonsils, and the lymph nodes in the neck may swell and become tender to touch.
REASON FOR THE TEST
The rapid strep test is done to help quickly determine whether a child's sore throat is caused by a strep infection vs. other germs (usually viruses) that don't require antibiotic treatment.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Before the test: Patient should stay still during the procedure so the health professional can collect enough secretions for an accurate test. Be sure to tell your doctor if you has taken antibiotics recently, and don't use mouthwash before the test as it may affect test results. During the test: A health professional will ask you to tilt his or her head back and open his or her mouth as wide as possible. Your tongue will then be pressed down with a flat stick (tongue depressor) to examine the mouth and throat. A clean swab will be rubbed over the back of the throat, around the tonsils, and over any red or sore areas to collect a sample. Throat swabs can be uncomfortable, but no risks are associated with a rapid strep test. Sometimes, two swabs will be used so the second swab can be sent for a throat culture if the rapid strep test results are negative. Swabbing will last only a few seconds. The secretions on the swab are then analyzed in the office or a laboratory. After the test: Your child may feel like gagging when the swab touches the back of the throat. If your child's throat is sore, the swabbing may cause slight pain temporarily.
Test results are usually available in about 15 minutes. If the rapid strep test indicates a strep infection, the doctor will usually prescribe antibiotics. Keep in mind, however, that up to a third of negative rapid strep test results are false (meaning someone actually has a strep throat infection even though the rapid strep results were negative). A throat culture may then be done to ensure accuracy.