How to (successfully) take a throat culture from a child or an adult ?
Before learning the correct way to take a throat swab, it’s important to read and understand the post about bacterial pharyngitis in children, since you need the correct reason to do that.
Even if it is technically easy to take the throat swab alone, I think the decision upon taking one should be done be the physician. He will take into account the symptoms, the appearance of the pharynx and will deiced on the correct treatment plan.
And after this introduction, it’s time for action.
The most common strep test to be performed at home is the quick throat swab. There are several kits available, and even if there are some technical differences between them, the idea is the same.
It is best to take the swab 15 minutes after the last meal so there are no leftovers of food in the child’s mouth.
Obtain the sample in a well-lit room. Sit comfortably. The child must sit in front of you in a position where his mouth turns to the light source.
If the child can open his mouth on his own – great. Tell him to say a big and long “ahaaa” which lowers the base of the tongue. Then you are good to go. If that doesn’t work, you must use a tongue depressor to lower the tongue. Some kits have a wooden tongue depressor, but you can use a spoon or any other instrument. Be patient and gentle.
Remember that you must not touch the tongue with the swab, not while inserting it and not when removing it.
The tip of the swab (the white part at the end) must touch the tonsils (better to touch both) and the posterior pharynx. It is better to roll the tip of the swab in those areas. Just a light touch might not be enough. If you see any redness or exudates, try to touch that area as well.
Don’t worry about any gag reflex or vomiting. It happens. It’s normal.
And now, after your done – remember:
When suspecting Strep pharyngitis in children, a negative quick throat swab result does not rule out an illness and a regular throat culture must be taken.
And on the other hand, a positive result of a quick throat swab does confirm the presence of group A strep in the pharynx but does not necessarily mean that the child is ill. Read all about this in a dedicated post.