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How do doctors test for strep throat?

How strep throat is diagnosed depends on your child’s age. Babies under age 2 are not usually tested for strep throat. Babies do not usually catch the infection.

If your child has symptoms, there are 2 types of tests:

  • Throat culture. This is when a doctor gently rubs a long cotton swab on the back of your child’s throat. The doctor will test the swab for the bacteria that causes strep throat. Results come back within 1-2 days.
  • Rapid strep test. This is similar to a throat culture, but the results come back within a few minutes.

How do doctors treat strep throat?

Treatment depends on your child’s symptoms and the results of the strep throat tests. The most common treatment for strep throat is an antibiotic. Not every child needs an antibiotic. Antibiotics help prevent strep throat from spreading to other people. They also help prevent complications (other medical problems) caused by strep throat and help your child feel better faster.

My child catches strep throat often. Why is that and how can I help?

Children can get strep throat often for many reasons. Their bodies might have trouble fighting off the infections or they might be more likely to get strep throat. In these cases, a doctor might refer your child to an ear, nose, and throat doctor, or otolaryngologist, to talk about different treatment options.

Rev. 4/2018. Reviewed by the MGHfC Family Advisory Council.