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A person who has a sore throat may have an infection called streptococcal pharyngitis, a condition more commonly known as strep throat. A rapid strep test is often used to uncover the presence of a strep throat infection. Also called a rapid antigen detection test, a rapid strep test can only find one kind of strep – group A streptococcal. The group A strain is more likely to result in serious throat infections then other types of strep, making early detection important.
Doctors usually order a rapid antigen strep test when a person exhibits symptoms like a sore throat, headache, weakness, or fever. An inflamed throat with white or yellow spots and a swollen, sensitive neck are other potential symptoms of the infection. If someone has been in close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with strep throat, he or she may also need to take a rapid strep test.
Traditionally, strep throat tests were conducted by taking a throat culture, which requires two or three days to process. Through rapid strep testing, however, the group A strep bacteria can be detected within minutes. Rapid strep tests typically look for the existence of the group A streptococcus carbohydrate antigen in a person's throat.
No preparation is needed for a rapid strep test, although gargling and eating right before the test can impact the results. Typically, during the test, a mucus sample is collected from the back of a person’s throat using a cotton swab. The mucus sample is then tested for the group A strep bacteria. Some people may experience sensitivity during the collection process, usually in the form of a choking or gagging sensation in the back of their throats.
A rapid strep test can be skewed if it is conducted before a sufficient bacteria sample is available in the throat. A test can also be influenced if it is performed when a person has already had the infection for some time and the strep bacteria has been mostly removed by the immune system. In addition, a test may be inaccurate if an individual has already been partly treated with antibiotics.
If the results of a strep throat rapid test are positive, then further testing is typically unnecessary. In this case, the infected individual is usually given antibiotics to treat the infection. Even if the test results are negative, a person may still have strep throat. If this happens, a throat culture may be required to completely rule out a strep infection. A negative throat culture generally means that the sore throat is the result of a viral infection.
When I started having strep symptoms at work the other day, I went to my company doctor. He had a rapid strep test kit in his office, and he got the results right away. He said I definitely had a strep throat infection, and I needed to get some prescription antibiotics from my regular pharmacy. I had to take a few days off work because I couldn't talk, and my job involves a lot of telemarketing and customer service.
The rapid strep throat test did save me a lot of time and worry, since I could get started on the treatment right away instead of giving the strep bacteria a three day head start.
My wife started complaining about a sore throat a week ago, and she said if it didn't get better by now she would pay a visit to a local emergency care center. She works around children all day, so strep throat wasn't out of the question. The doctor on duty did a rapid strep test this morning and it came back negative for the bacteria. She had a simple case of pharyngitis, not an infection. The doctor prescribed some antibiotics and told her to gargle with warm salt water occasionally.
I remember when I was a kid it would take two or three days to determine if I had strep throat or not. My mom would take me to
the doctor one day, and he'd swab my throat. She might get a call three days later from a nurse, and I'd have to go back for another exam. Now I can be in and out in an hour if I suspect I have strep symptoms.