How is Strep Throat Diagnosed?


To diagnose strep throat, a doctor asks about the patient's symptoms and performs a physical exam. The doctor may order one or more of the following tests:

  • Rapid antigen test can detect strep bacteria in the throat in minutes after swabbing the throat and running a test on the swab.
  • Throat culture that grows from a swab sample may take two days, but it can sometimes find an infection that the rapid strep test misses.
  • PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test takes longer than the rapid test. The test detects material from a swab sample of a specific virus or bacteria and can detect pieces of the specific virus or bacteria after a person is no longer infected. It can be used to study if a person has had an infection.

How can a primary doctor help?

A primary care doctor can help address strep throat symptoms and can prescribe antibiotics. The doctor can discuss any additional tests or treatments a patient may need. If further care is needed, the primary care doctor will refer the patient to a specialist.

How is Strep Throat Treated?


The main treatment for strep throat is antibiotics. Pain reliever and fever-reducer medication can also be taken, and some lifestyle changes may also help improve symptoms.

Treatment for strep throat includes:

  • Medication
    • Antibiotics. Prescribed by a doctor for people who are diagnosed with strep throat. Antibiotics help improve symptoms, reduce the time it takes to get well and lower the risk of complications and the spread of the infection to others.
    • Fever and pain relievers. Common over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be taken to improve symptoms.
  • Lifestyle changes can help relieve symptoms of strep throat until the antibiotics clear the infection. Ways to improve symptoms include:
    • Resting at home for at least 24 hours after starting to take antibiotics and until patients are feeling better.
    • Drinking plenty of fluids to keep hydrated and soothe the sore throat. 
    • Eating soft, mild foods that are easy to swallow, such as broths, soups, yogurt, and applesauce.
    • Avoid spicy foods that can irritate the throat.



People with strep throat typically start to feel better in a day or two after taking antibiotics but should continue taking the antibiotics as the doctor prescribed to prevent complications. Symptoms may go away without antibiotics within 10 days.

People who take antibiotics for strep throat usually stop being contagious about 24 to 48 hours after they start taking antibiotics. Strep throat can be contagious for about 2 to 3 weeks in people who are not taking antibiotics.

Strep throat symptom s are a red throat and red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches and small red spots on the roof of the mouth. A strep throat may feel sore and scratchy.

Strep throat is an infection in the throat and tonsils that is caused by streptococcus bacteria. Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils, which is typically caused by a virus but is sometimes caused by bacteria. Both infections cause similar symptoms, including sore throat and difficulty swallowing.

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Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Strep Throat Treatment

At NewYork-Presbyterian, we are experienced in caring for a diverse population of patients, offering services for adults, children, adolescents, and older patients of all backgrounds. Our primary care services of family medicine doctors, internists, and pediatricians are available at more than 15 practices throughout Manhattan.

Same-day appointments can be made for urgent needs. Scheduling is easy, we offer early, late, and weekend hours, and we accept most insurance plans. Learn more about treatment for strep throat and other throat infections.

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