When to Schedule a Strep Test

Sore throats are common, and while they can be uncomfortable, many times your symptoms will clear up on their own over time. Other times, a sore throat is a sign of an infection caused by a bacterium called streptococcus (or strep).

Without prompt treatment, strep throat infections can lead to serious health complications, causing infections in other areas, like the heart, lungs, or kidneys. Melita Tate, MD, and the team at Grassroots Healthcare offer targeted care for strep throat, including testing to help rule out other possible causes. If you have a sore throat, here’s how to tell if you need to schedule a strep test.

Strep throat: The basics

Streptococcus bacteria live in your nasal passageways and your throat because these are warm, moist environments that allow these bacteria to thrive. Because they’re in your airways, that means you can pass along those germs any time you sneeze or cough, projecting tiny, infected droplets into the air.

If someone else has strep, you can “catch” their infection by:

One strain of strep (strep A) can cause a skin condition called impetigo. In that instance, you can also catch a strep infection by touching sores caused by the infection.

Strep symptoms

Sore throat obviously is one of the common symptoms of strep throat, but it’s not the only one. Knowing what other symptoms are common with strep can help you decide if your sore throat is due to strep or to another cause, like a cold, allergy, or even smoking. Strep symptoms include:

If you have a cough, a runny nose, or itchy, red eyes, it’s more likely to be a virus or allergy that’s causing your sore throat. Strep throat also tends to cause a sore throat more quickly than either a cold or an allergy, and the pain of a strep infection also tends to be more severe.

Diagnosing a sore throat: The strep test

Since sore throats can have different causes, it’s really important to have targeted treatment. That all starts with an office visit. During your visit, Dr. Tate will ask you about your symptoms and take your temperature. Then, she’ll use a bright light to look at the back of your throat. While most sore throats will cause redness due to irritation, infections can also cause those telltale white patches or streaks.

If she suspects strep throat or another type of infection, Dr. Tate will perform a strep test, or throat culture. In this test, she uses a long cotton-tipped swab to gently rub the back of your throat, collecting a sample that can be evaluated for signs of infection.  

If you do have a strep infection, Dr. Tate will prescribe antibiotics to help your immune system fight off the germs. Since strep infections can cause more serious problems if not properly treated, it’s really important to take all your antibiotics — even if you start to feel better. 

Don’t put off your test

Strep tests are simple and quick, and they’re the simplest way to diagnose a strep infection quickly, so treatment can begin as soon as possible. If you have a sore throat, call our Tulsa, Oklahoma, practice to schedule an office visit or book an appointment online today.

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