A rapid strep test involves a fast throat swab, it is a quick test, and within minutes, it shows whether group A streptococcus is present or not. Group A streptococcus bacteria can result in strep throat and other infections like pneumonia, scarlet fever, and abscesses (Ball et al., 2014). Strep throat is a bacterial infection that affects the tonsils and the back of the throat, making them swollen and irritated; this leads to a sore throat, making swallowing painful. An infected child may have yellow or white spots or sometimes a coating on the throat, the lymph nodes, and the tonsils. The lymph nodes become tender to touch as a result. The infection is most common among children of the age of between 5 years and ten years old. Among school-going children, it is estimated that up to 20% may be carrying the bacteria but do not show the symptoms associated with strep throat; these children, however, can pass spread the infection (Dains et al., 2015).
The rapid strep test is used to quickly determine if the cause of a child's sore throat is a strep throat infection or other germs. One condition where a doctor does the strep test, is if the child has symptoms of a strep throat and does not have symptoms associated with a viral infection. Another condition is when the child has a sore throat, and, in the past days, the child has been in contact with someone known to have the strep throat infection or if in the community the child lives in, many cases of the infection have been detected. An alternative to the rapid strep test is the throat culture. However, despite being known to produce more accurate results than the rapid strep test, the culture throat takes a while longer than the rapid strep test. For the results to come out, it takes two to three days, and that is why the rapid strep test is preferred for quick checks (Heather, & Karen, 2012)..
How it is DoneThe rapid strep test procedure is carried out by a health professional. The child is asked to tilt his or her head and open the mouth as wide as possible. Using the tongue depressor, the child's tongue is pressed down to examine the child's mouth clearly. The healthcare provider using a clean, soft cotton swab brushes over the throat's back, around the tonsils and on the sore areas; this is to gather a sample. In some cases, two swabs are used for the test, and if the results of the rapid strep test turn out to be negative, the second swab is used for the throat culture test for confirmation. The swabbing only takes a few seconds to be completed; afterward the secretions on the swab are examined at the lab (Sullivan, 2018). .
What Information it Gathers
After about 15 minutes, the results of the rapid strep test become ready. There exists more than a few manufactures of the test tools, and each one of them has designed it to detect only to the existence of the particular streptococcal bacteria (Group A). The rapid test does not detect other infections that have high chances of causing the sore throat; it does not identify viral causes of sore throats; it only gathers information on the presence of Group A streptococcus, a type of bacterium. Since it is an antigen uncovering test, the test checks the sample for bacteria concentration (Finkelstein et al., 2017).
Sensitivity, Specificity, and Reliability
The rapid strep test has a sensitivity of about 95%. What this means is that 100 patients, confirmed to have a strep throat infection when tested with the rapid strep test, the result would show that 95 of the 100 people have strep throat while the remaining five do not; five would be missed, there would be five false negatives (Barakat et al., 2019). For this reason, the test is considered not to be 100% reliable, and it is relatively reliable. Patients are advised to always follow up with the advice of the doctor; this is so especially if the symptoms persist, a throat culture test can then be performed.
The rapid strep test has a specificity of about 98%; what it implies is that, if 100 tests turn out positive, 98 of them indicate specifically dictate the existence of Group A streptococcus bacteria; two of the 100 are false positives. The test has either accidentally identified the presence of a similar bacteria in the two patients or the two of them despite having the bacteria in their tonsils, the bacteria has not transitioned to an active infection yet. Also, the test cannot differentiate between a strep throat infection and the asymptomatic carriage of the bacterium. However, if, the test results are postive from a child with a sore throat, most health professional's advice that antibiotic treatment is used (Smugreska et al., 2019).
In conclusion, the rapid strep test is a quick and convenient way in which a healthcare provider can use in helping a patient in the treatment of a strep throat. The test is extensively used in clinics, medic offices, and emergency departments; the tests can be used anywhere. Prior to its invention, the throat culture was the lone means to detect if a bacterium caused a patient's sore throat, the method, however, takes a lot longer for the results to come in (Chaudhary & Nisar, 2017). The downside of the rapid strep test is its reliability; almost up to a third of the results being false.
Ball, J. W., Dains, J. E., Flynn, J. A., Solomon, B. S., & Stewart, R. W. (2014). Seidel's Guide to Physical Examination-E-Book. Elsevier Health Sciences.
Barakat, A. J., Evans, C., Gill, M., & Nelson, D. (2019). Rapid strep testing in children with recently treated streptococcal pharyngitis. Pediatric Investigation, 3(1), 27-30. https://doi.org/10.1002/ped4.12109Chaudhary, M. A. I., & Nisar, A. (2017). Escalating Health Care Cost due to Unnecessary Diagnostic Testing. Mehran University Research Journal of Engineering and Technology, 36(3), 569-578. https://doi.org/10.22581/muet1982.1703.13
Dains, J. E., Baumann, L. C., & Scheibel, P. (2015). Advanced Health Assessment & Clinical Diagnosis in Primary Care-E-Book. Elsevier Health Sciences.
Finkelstein, S. N., Horowitz, G. L., Diamond, D. V., Bartels, P., Joseph, J., Hartman, L., ... & Slack, W. V. (2017). Rapid Streptococcal Antigen Detection Test Performed by Parents of Children with Sore Throat. Journal of Participatory Medicine, 9.
Heather, G., & Karen, C. N. (2012). Exploring nutrition literacy: attention to assessment and the skills clients need. Health, 2012. doi:10.4236/health.2012.43019
Smugreska, S., Trencheva, M., & Tasic, V. (2019). P399 Application of a rapid strep test in the identification of beta-hemolytic streptococcus gr. A (study conducted in dracevo and its surrounding). http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/archdischild-2019-epa.745
Sullivan, D. D. (2018). Guide to clinical documentation. FA Davis.
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