How is strep throat in children diagnosed?

Strep throat in children can by diagnosed with rapid testing. Strep throat can also be diagnosed without testing when strict clinical criteria, in other words, signs and symptoms, are used to make the diagnosis. 

Dr. Diana K. Blythe, MD

Strep throat in children is diagnosed using a throat swab. A rapid test is performed which only takes a few minutes. When the rapid test is negative, a throat culture is performed which takes two days to process. Antibiotics should only be used for sore throat if the test is positive for strep.

Strep throat is diagnosed in children when the symptoms, physical exam findings and test results are consistent with this infection. Testing includes swabbing the back of the throat for a rapid strep test or a throat culture. A rapid strep test (rapid antigen test) is usually the first test ordered because it can be performed in the office setting. This will allow the doctor to know in just a few minutes if the test is positive for strep. A throat culture may be performed if the result of the rapid strep test is negative as the rapid strep test may miss some strep throat infections. A throat culture is sent to the laboratory to see if the strep bacteria grow out; those results do not return for up to two days.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.