How To Prepare
You do not need to do anything before you have this test. Tell your doctor if you have recently taken any antibiotics.
How It Is Done
You will be asked to tilt your head back and open your mouth as wide as possible. Your doctor will press your tongue down with a flat stick (tongue depressor) and then examine your mouth and throat. A clean swab will be rubbed over the back of your throat, around your tonsils, and over any red areas or sores to collect a sample.
The sample may also be collected using a throat washout. For this test, you will gargle a small amount of salt water and then spit the fluid into a clean cup. This method gives a larger sample than a throat swab and may make the culture more reliable.
If your child needs a throat culture, you may hold your child on your lap while the sample is taken. This can prevent your child from moving around too much.
How It Feels
You may feel like gagging when the swab touches the back of your throat. If your throat is sore, the swabbing may be slightly painful.
Generally there is no chance of problems with collecting a sample for a throat culture. Your doctor can talk to you about any specific risks of the test.
A throat culture is a test to find a bacterial or fungal infection in the throat. Throat culture test results for bacterial infections are ready in 1 to 2 days, depending on which bacteria are being tested for. Test results for a fungus may take about 7 days.
Rapid strep test results are ready in 10 to 15 minutes. This test is only for bacterial infections caused by strep bacteria.
Rapid strep test
|Normal (negative results):
No strep bacteria are detected. A throat culture may be recommended.
|Abnormal (positive results):
Strep bacteria are detected. This means you have strep throat. Antibiotics can be started immediately.
| Normal (negative)
No infection (bacteria or fungi) grows in the culture.
A negative throat culture may mean that the cause of your infection is a virus, rather than bacteria or fungus.
Some viruses that cause throat infections include:
| Abnormal (positive)
Bacteria grows in the culture. Some bacterial throat infections include:
Fungus grows in the culture. The most common fungal throat infection is thrush, caused by the fungus Candida albicans.