Strep Throat Diagnosis

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 Ear, Nose and Throat center physicians typically 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

Read: Common strep throat symptoms

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 ENT 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 ENT 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.

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: How is Strep Throat Treated?

Read: What is Strep Throat?

Read: What are Strep Throat Symptoms?

Read: 5 Tips to Prevent Strep Throat

strep throat photo

Strep Throat

If your symptoms and diagnosis confirm strep throat, it’s time for treatment. With the results of the rapid stress test in hand, your ENT doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat strep throat.

We strongly encourage the use of antibiotics for two reasons:

  1. Antibiotics work quickly: Patients are no longer contagious within 24 hours from the time you begin taking antibiotics. That means you can get on with your life by returning to work or school and not worry about infecting others with strep throat.
  2. Antibiotics reduce the severity of strep throat symptoms and risk of complications: Strep throat is painful and the sooner your symptoms disappear, the better you feel. You should expect to feel better quickly, usually within 24 to 36 hours after you start taking antibiotics.

Common Strep Throat Antibiotics

If you or a child is diagnose with strep throat, your doctor will commonly prescribe oral antibiotics such as penicillin or amoxicillin in tablet or liquid form. Both antibiotics are effective in curing strep throat. However, your doctor may prescribe other antibiotics based on the strep throat diagnosis and the unique needs of the patient.

It’s also important to complete the entire prescription even if you begin to feel better quickly. Always follow the prescription plan as prescribed by your doctor.

If you don’t begin to feel better within 48 hours of using the prescribed antibiotics, call the Ear, Nose and Throat Center at 801-328-2522.

Ways to Reduce Strep Throat Pain

You can reduce sore throat pain by using throat lozenges and gargling with warm salt water. If bad enough, liquid narcotic medicine may be prescribed. However, if the pain lingers and is particularly strong, you may also choose to reduce sore throat pain and reduce fever by using a variety of over-the-counter medications including ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Your doctor and/or pharmacist will also provide directions for the correct dosage of any prescription or over-the-counter medicines. With all medicines, be sure to read and follow the directions on the label and contact the Ear, Nose and Throat Center at 801-328-2522 with questions.

  • Ibuprofen products include Advil, Children’s Advil/Motrin, Motrin, Nuprin, PediaCare Fever etc. Various store brand and generic versions of ibuprofen are also available.
  • Acetaminophen products include Tylenol and Children’s Tylenol. Like ibuprofen, generic versions of acetaminophen are available at most drug stores and are less expensive than the brand name products.

Contact the Ear, Nose and Throat Center with Strep Throat Questions

While strep throat can be painful, it can also be cured quickly. If you suspect you have strep throat symptoms, our ENT doctors in Salt Lake City, Draper and Park City, Utah can quickly diagnose and treat strep throat. Call 801-328-2522 to set an appointment.