There are two ways to diagnose strep throat: a clinical exam and a laboratory test. We’ll cover both options here so you can understand what to expect when you visit an ear, nose and throat doctor.
Our Utah ear, nose and throat doctors usually perform both the clinical exam and a laboratory test to ensure we accurately diagnose strep throat.
Clinical Strep Throat Exam
A clinical exam begins by looking for common strep throat symptoms such as:
- A severe sore throat
- Fever above 101 degrees
- White or yellow pus on your tonsils and/or redness on the back of your throat
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Absence of traditional cold symptoms such as cough, congestion or a runny nose
Your ENT doctor will typically use a tongue depressor to ensure your throat and tonsils are clearly visible. We’ll also consider the patient’s age—strep throat is most common in patients between the ages of 5 and 15 years old—and the time of year since strep throat infections are more common between late fall and early spring.
Laboratory Strep Throat Tests
If indications for strep throat appear likely following the clinical exam, your doctor will order a laboratory test to confirm a strep infection. The doctor or physician’s assistant will quickly and gently swab the back of your throat and order a rapid strep test. We may also order a throat culture.
- Rapid Strep Test: The rapid stress test is also known as a rapid antigen detection test. The good news is that the Ear, Nose and Throat Center can confirm a strep throat infection within a few minutes using the rapid stress test.
- Throat Culture: While the rapid stress test regularly identifies strep throat, it may not detect all cases of strep throat. In some instances, we may choose to order a throat culture so we can more thoroughly analyze your condition. The downside to a throat culture is that results may not be available for a few days, which is why we typically use the rapid stress test. Your doctor will consider your symptoms following an exam and recommend the appropriate tests to confirm diagnosis.
Next Step: Strep Throat Treatment
Once your physician has completed the exam and ordered the appropriate tests that confirm strep throat, we will prescribe antibiotics to treat strep throat. The good news is that you will no longer be infectious within 24 hours of starting antibiotic treatment and patients start to feel better quickly.
Contact the Ear, Nose and Throat Center with Questions
If you have questions about strep throat, please contact the Ear, Nose and Throat Center at 801-328-2522 to set an appointment with ENT doctors in Salt Lake City, Park City and Draper, Utah.
Read: What is Strep Throat?