A strep test looks for infection in the throat caused by bacteria called group A streptococcus.
A strep test is done to find out if certain strep bacteria are causing a sore throat. If the test finds group A strep bacteria, your child’s healthcare provider may 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 group A strep, such as heart or kidney problems from rheumatic fever. Most other common causes of sore throat do not need treatment with antibiotics.
Make sure your healthcare provider knows about any medicines, herbs, or supplements that your child is taking. Tell the healthcare provider if your child took antibiotics during the 3 days before the test because that can affect the test result. Don't stop any of your child’s regular medicines without first consulting with your healthcare provider.
Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about the test.
The strep test may be done in 2 ways: a rapid strep test or a throat culture. For both tests your healthcare provider gets a sample by rubbing a cotton swab against 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.
The rapid strep test is very accurate and reliable if it is positive. If it is negative, your provider may choose to send a throat culture to confirm that the result is accurate especially for children and adolescents. If the culture is negative, it is likely that your child’s sore throat was caused by a virus.
Test results are only one part of a larger picture that takes into account your child’s medical history, physical exam, and current health. Sometimes a test needs to be repeated to check the first result. Talk to your healthcare provider about your child’s result and ask questions, such as: