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What are the Benefits of Getting a Strep Test at Your Home?

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that causes a scratchy and sore throat. Strep throat can cause complications like rheumatic fever or kidney inflammation if left untreated. Rheumatic fever can cause a rash, make joints painful and inflamed, or damage your heart valves. Untreated kidney inflammation can lead to kidney disease or end-stage renal failure.

Anyone can develop strep throat, but it is most common in children. Strep throat is most common in winter and early spring. It can be spread easily when people are together in large groups.

There are three specific tests available that are used to diagnose strep throat.

This article will discuss what a strep test is, how at-home tests work, and compare in-home testing to visiting a clinic.

What is a strep test?

To diagnose strep throat, your or your child’s healthcare professional will need a physical exam to check for any signs and symptoms. They will look for things such as tiny red spots on the back of the roof of your mouth or to see if your tonsils are swollen and red and/or if there are white patches or streaks of pus on your tonsils.

Your doctor will also order one or more of these tests: a rapid antigen test, a throat culture, or a molecular (polymerase chain reaction, or PCR) test. These three tests involve rubbing a sterile soft swab against your throat. These tests are not painful, but they may cause gagging as the swab touches the back of your throat.

A rapid antigen test involves taking a swab sample from your throat that will then be tested for the presence of antigens in your throat that will indicate strep bacteria. This test takes minutes to provide results. If the rapid antigen test comes back negative, but your doctor still thinks you might have strep throat, they might order a throat culture.

A throat culture involves taking a swab sample of your throat and tonsil secretions. The sample will be checked for bacteria in a lab. A throat culture will yield results within two days.

A molecular PCR test for strep throat is the least-used test, but it is gaining popularity among healthcare providers.

How do at-home tests work?

You can have a strep test done at home. A medical professional will come to your home to administer the test(s). They will take one or more swabs of your throat (and possibly your tonsils) that will be analyzed for antigens or bacteria, depending on the test.

If you have a rapid antigen test done, the nurse will stay with you until your results are ready in a few minutes, go over them with you, and recommend any treatment you may need. If you have a throat culture or a PCR test done, the throat swab will be sent to a lab for examination, and someone will contact you when the results are ready and talk to you about treatment, if necessary.

If you or your child have strep throat, you will likely be prescribed oral antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection that is causing your strep throat. These will shorten the duration of your symptoms, decrease the severity of your symptoms, and reduce the chances of spreading the infection to other people or developing complications due to strep throat. Antibiotics are most effective if you start taking them within two days of when you start having symptoms of strep throat.

You or your child should start to feel better a day or two after taking antibiotics, but you should call your or your child’s doctor if you are not getting any better after two days of taking the antibiotics as prescribed.

Even if you or your child feel better while taking antibiotics, it is important to finish all the medicine. Not taking the whole course of antibiotics can make the infection come back or cause serious complications like kidney inflammation or rheumatic fever.

Your child can return to school or a childcare facility once they feel well, do not have a fever, and are no longer contagious. This is usually one day after using strep throat antibiotics.

In-home testing vs. going to a clinic

All three strep throat tests are quick and easy. You may not see the point of spending extra time and money going to and from a clinic and waiting for your turn for such a simple test. It is much easier to have someone come to you to perform the test(s) rather than you having to go to them.

You can schedule a strep test from Concierge MD online today.

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