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throat culture

Alternative Names 
throat swab, pharyngeal culture

A throat culture is a test to see if a bacterial infection is present in the throat.

Who is a candidate for the procedure? 
This procedure is done on a person who has symptoms of a sore throat and who may have a fever. This test is often ordered when a Group A strep infection such as strep throat is suspected.

How is the procedure performed? 
A tongue depressor is used to hold the tongue down. A special swab is inserted into the mouth and brushed against the throat and tonsils. The swab is then sent to a laboratory to see if there are any bacteria. Some doctor's offices are able to do this analysis onsite.

What happens right after the procedure? 
The procedure only takes a minute. It is usually done in the doctor's office. A person can generally go home right after the throat culture is done. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics for the person to take pending the results of the throat culture. If the result is positive, the person avoid close contact with others for at least 24 hours after starting antibiotics to prevent the spread of this infection.

What happens later at home? 
The person can resume their normal activities once they have recovered from their sore throat.

What are the potential complications after the procedure? 
There are no complications from the procedure. Having a throat culture done is harmless and only slightly uncomfortable. Sometimes children may gag or even vomit from having the back of their throat touched.

Author: Adam Brochert, MD
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 12/06/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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