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Throat Swab

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What is a throat swab?

throat-swab

It is one of the easiest, fastest, non-invasive testing methods to identify the germs/bacteria from the back of your mouth (tonsilar arch and posterior nasopharynx ) with the help of the swab, which resembles a cotton Q-tip.

It is commonly used in the case of Strep throat (group A Streptococcus bacteria).

The swab is further sent to the diagnostic laboratory for cultural testing and identification of the organism/ bacteria/ germs responsible for your infection.

Why is it done?

• For identifying the cause of sore throat (most common being -Strep Throat)

• Diphtheria

• To confirm a viral infection

• To test the antibiotic sensitivity of an organism

• For testing meningococci

How is it done?

• A trained health professional will make you tilt your head backs.

• The health professional will use all sterile material and aseptic precautions while performing the test. They will wear sterile gloves, face mask, and with the “no-touch” technique, open the packet containing the swab.

• The kit generally has a swab, tongue depressor (often resembles a popsicle stick), and a culture tube.

• The individual will have to open their mouth wide with their tongue sticking out, and the health professional will depress the tongue with the help of the tongue depressor (the tongue is pressed down to avoid it getting in the way of procedure).

• The person is asked to say “Ah” to relax his/her throat muscles hence minimizing the gag reflex.

• Then with the help of the swab, they reach back of the mouth and swipe the swab in a rotating fashion to collect the sample from the red/inflamed area.

• The swab is then transferred into the culture tube, crushing the tube ampule at the midpoint making sure the tip of the swab is in contact with the medium within and recap the tube.

• The gloves are removed, and proper hand hygiene is performed.

• The Culture tube is appropriately labeled with the patient’s information and swab site by the health professional.

• Sometimes two swabs are used to take the sample.

know more…

How does it feel during the test?

• Many people have gagging while the swab is introduced and rotated to take the sample.

• Some people experience slight discomfort (children).

• Rarely, it may induce coughing or vomiting in some children.

• Mostly it is a well-tolerated procedure with no discomfort.

What to avoid doing?

• Don’t rinse mouth with antiseptic mouth wash before the test.

• The health professional shouldn’t touch the individual’s tongue, gums or teeth with the sterile swab during the insertion or removal of the sterile swab.

What to expect after the test?

• It takes 5-10 days for the results to come back since time is required for growing the organism on a culture media.

• A positive result means that you have a bacterial infection, and a negative test means you don’t have the infection in your throat.

• According to the test results, the doctor prescribes antibiotics to the person.

What is Rapid Strep Test?

• It is done when the doctor suspects Strep throat, which is the most common cause of sore throat,especially in infants and children.

• Generally, the sample is collected by the cotton swab and applied to a strip (nitrocellulose). If the group A- streptococci antigen is present, then it forms a line on the strip, and the test is considered positive.

• Another method (immunoassay) is by mixing the sample with labeled antibodies and then look for a formation at the top of the solution and note the change of color.

• The test is a fast method,within 5-10 mins, giving results right away so that person can be put on antibiotics.

Research behind this article:

https://journals.lww.com/nursing/Fulltext/2007/03000/Obtaining_a_throat_culture.17.aspx
https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2121004-overview#a3
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/strep-throat/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350344
https://www.mayo.edu/research/mayo-adult-rsv-study-instructions-nasal-throat-swabs

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