In many cases, doctors use a simple test to detect streptococcal bacteria, the cause of strep throat. The doctor rubs a sterile swab over the back of the throat to get a sample of secretions and sends the sample to a lab for testing. Many clinics are equipped with a lab that can get a test result for a rapid antigen test within a few minutes. However, a second, often more reliable test, called a throat culture, is sometimes sent to a lab that returns results within 24 to 48 hours.
In some cases, doctors may use a molecular test to detect streptococcal bacteria. In this test, a doctor swipes a sterile swab over the back of the throat to get a sample of secretions. The sample is tested in a lab. Your or your child's doctor may have accurate results within a few minutes.
A sore throat caused by a viral infection usually lasts five to seven days and doesn't usually require medical treatment. Antibiotics don't help treat a viral infection.
To ease pain and fever, many people turn to acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or other mild pain relievers.
Consider giving your child over-the-counter pain medications designed for infants or children, such as acetaminophen (Children's Tylenol, FeverAll, others) or ibuprofen (Children's Advil, Children's Motrin, others), to ease symptoms.
Never give aspirin to children or teenagers because it has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition that causes swelling in the liver and brain.
Treating bacterial infections
If your or your child's sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor or pediatrician will prescribe antibiotics.
You or your child must take the full course of antibiotics as prescribed even if the symptoms are gone. Failure to take all of the medication as directed can result in the infection worsening or spreading to other parts of the body.
Not completing the full course of antibiotics to treat strep throat can increase a child's risk of rheumatic fever or serious kidney inflammation.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what to do if you forget a dose.