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Rapid Strep Test for Strep Throat

Overview

For a rapid strep test, the throat and tonsils are swabbed to collect bacteria from the infected area for testing. The bacteria are analyzed to see whether Group A strep (streptococcal) bacteria are causing the sore throat.

A good sample of throat secretions is needed to make sure the test is accurate. A person must remain very still during the procedure so that the doctor is able to collect enough secretions for an accurate test.

Results of a rapid strep test are available in 10 to 15 minutes.

Why It Is Done

It may be done so your doctor can find out right away whether you have strep throat. There is another test for strep, called a throat culture, but that test takes a few days to get the results.

How To Prepare

You don't need to do anything before you have this test.

How It Is Done

  • You will be asked to tilt your head back and open your mouth as wide as possible.
  • Your doctor will press your tongue down with a flat stick (tongue depressor) and then examine your mouth and throat.
  • A clean cotton swab will be rubbed over the back of your throat, around your tonsils, and over any red areas or sores to collect a sample.

How long the test takes

  • The test takes less than a minute.
  • Results are available in 10 to 15 minutes.

Results

Normal

A normal or negative test means that strep bacteria may not be present.

  • Sometimes, negative results are wrong. This means that you may have a negative rapid strep test result and still have strep throat.
  • A throat culture may be done if the rapid strep test result is negative.

Abnormal

An abnormal or positive strep test means that strep bacteria are present.

  • Antibiotic treatment can be started.
  • A positive test result does not distinguish those people with an active strep infection from those who are carriers of strep bacteria but actually have a viral infection (rather than a bacterial one).

Credits

Current as of: April 15, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Donald R. Mintz MD - Otolaryngology