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How To Diagnose Strep Throat

How To Diagnose Strep Throat

Introduction to strep throat

Strep throat is an infection of the throat that causes swelling, inflammation, and pain within the throat. Strep throat is caused by a bacteria that is dangerously contagious. It is known to affect the upper back part of the mouth. This is also the hard/soft palate.

The main effect of strep throat is a sore throat. It is one of the main causes of sore throat. Strep throat mostly occurs in school-age children. However, the infection can also affect adults, although it is more rare.

It is also important to note that strep throat is a contagious disease. This means that the infection can be spread from one person to another. The bacteria responsible for the cause of strep throat is known as Group A Streptococcus, and it is highly contagious. This bacteria is also referred to a Streptococcus pyogenes.

Symptoms of strep throat

Strep throat is an infection that can vary from one person to another in terms of its severity and hence the symptoms. In some cases, people may experience more severe symptoms, while others may have more mild symptoms that can go away in a very short period of time.


There are a number of symptoms that may suggest the possibility of having strep throat and that require you to meet a doctor for diagnosis. These symptoms may include:

  • You may experience chills. This is a condition that can be experienced at any time of the day. Especially for young children, it can become very problematic.
  • The throat turns reddish in color and sore. This is due to the bacterial effects of strep throat. At the same time, you may start developing white patches on the throat.
  • You may have loss of appetite. This is an effect that can be gradual or abrupt.
  • In case you may have strep throat, you may also experience headaches. To some people, these headaches can be severe.
  • You may have a fever. This can be quick and very high in some individuals. It can raise up to 101 F.
  • You may experience trouble when swallowing. This may involve a number of things, when swallowing food, fluids, or even saliva. At the same time, it may worsen the symptoms when swallowing hot or cold substances.
  • There is the formation of inflamed lymph nodes around the neck. These can be identified by touch or by moving your fingers around the neck.
  • You may have petechie, which refers to tiny reddish spots that appear on the soft/hard palate. This is the roof of your mouth.
  • Nausea is sometimes accompanied by vomiting. This is a symptom that is more evident among children.
  • A very quick rash may appear. The rash is always sandpaper-like in nature.

What causes strep throat?

By understanding the main causes of strep throat, you can understand all the processes followed for the diagnosis of the disease. This is a disease caused by a bacteria. The bacteria responsible for strep throat is known as Group A Streptococcus.

Streptococcus bacteria is known to exist and live within human beings, although it is not usually harmful until certain times in life or if it is triggered. It lives around the throat or in other parts of the skin of a person.

A person will come into contact with bacterial droplets released by an infected person. These droplets hang closely to the mouth and nose. They are released through coughing, sneezing, and use of other materials that come into contact with your nose or mouth.

Once you have acquired the streptococcus droplets, then the process of infecting the body starts. The bacteria starts by attacking the pharyngeal tissue, which, as a result, causes inflammation and swelling. The inflammatory reaction is manifested in the throat and your tonsils.

The bacteria of the infection can also be responsible for other infections, including impetigo which is a skin infection.


Diagnosis of strep throat

There are different approaches which a doctor can use depending on the severity of the infection. In some cases, the disease may be so severe that it is evident and a doctor does not have to use more complex methods to diagnose the condition. Any diagnosis procedure is also completed when considering that there are mild and severe symptoms of strep throat.

These diagnosis procedures may include:

  • Patient’s history - This is the first and most important part of diagnosing strep throat. Since most of the symptoms experienced are on the inner parts of the body, it is sometimes difficult to identify the problem without hearing from the patient. A doctor will require you to offer a comprehensive history of everything you have been experiencing. Hence, the doctor will then be able to know which tests to perform. During this stage, it is obvious that a patient may be asked a number of questions to help the doctor get full details of the problem. Such questions may include:
    • When did you start experiencing the symptoms?
    • How severe are the symptoms?
    • Is there anything that improves or worsens the symptoms?
    • Have you had any throat complications before?
    • Have you taken any medications to relieve the symptoms?
  • Throat/mouth examination - This is a rather simple step performed to identify any changes in the throat. A doctor will request that you open your mouth widely. Then, by use of vision, he looks into the mouth to find out if there are any abnormalities. Since the infection causes some patches in the palates, a doctor should be able to identify this and take further action.
  •  Quick antigen test - This is a quick test performed to identify the presence of bacteria in your throat. To do this, a swab sample is collected from your throat, and a rapid antigen test is performed. The test can take just a few minutes to identify strep bacteria. However, this is not a very effective test. Even after getting negative results, a doctor can go further into performing a throat culture.
  • Throat culture - This is a test that is considered to be 90 to 95% accurate. To do this, a doctor uses a sterile swab to obtain secretions from your tonsils or throat. The swab is rubbed against these surfaces. The procedure is not painful, but it can cause the compulsion to gag. Upon obtaining the secretions, the next step is culturing the sample in the laboratory for bacteria identification. This is a method that bears one disadvantage. It may take a bit longer than other diagnosis methods.

When to see a doctor

In case you are experiencing certain strange symptoms related to those of strep throat, it is important to know when it is right to see a doctor. See a doctor if you:

  • Start having difficulties breathing
  • Have white patches on the throat
  • Have a sore throat that lasts for more than 2 days
  • Experience a sore throat which is accompanied by a rash
  • Have problems swallowing food, fluids, or saliva

The bottom line

Strep throat can be a disturbing infection that may cause other effects in the throat and other parts of your body. However, if the symptoms are detected early enough and a proper diagnosis is given, then the infection can be treated in good time.

Also remember to explain all the symptoms you are experiencing to enable faster diagnosis. Note that strep throat is a contagious infection. Visit a doctor immediately if you notice any signs of the infection.

Key Takeaways

  • What is strep throat?
  • Symptoms of strep throat
  • Managing and treating strep