What You Need to Know in Preparing Your Child for a Strep Test

Is your child experiencing a sore throat, fever, and difficulty swallowing? These could be signs of strep throat, a bacterial infection that requires prompt medical attention. If your pediatrician suspects strep, they may recommend strep testing to confirm the diagnosis.

In this article, we will explore what you need to know in preparing your child for this test, including understanding the process, emotional and physical preparation, what to expect during the test, and the next steps after the results. By following these tips, you can help make the experience smoother and more comfortable for your little one.


  • A strep test involves swabbing the throat to check for the streptococcus bacteria that causes strep throat.
  • Preparing your child emotionally and physically can make the testing experience smoother and less stressful.
  • During the test, keep your child calm and cooperative through distraction techniques, praise, and rewards.
  • Understand the next steps based on the test results, including treatment options and prevention measures.

Understanding the Strep Test Process

strep test involves a quick swab of the back of the throat to check for the presence of group A streptococcus bacteria, which causes strep throat. There are two main types of strep tests: the rapid antigen test and the throat culture. 

The rapid antigen test provides results within 15-30 minutes, making it an ideal option for quick diagnosis and treatment. However, it’s highly specific but can sometimes miss infections, leading to false negatives.

On the other hand, the throat culture is considered the gold standard for strep throat diagnosis. While it takes 1-2 days to obtain the results, it’s more sensitive and can detect even low levels of bacteria. In some cases, both tests may be performed for confirmation, especially if the rapid test is negative but the symptoms persist.

Preparing Your Child Emotionally

Explaining the test to your child in a calm and age-appropriate manner is crucial for reducing their anxiety and ensuring cooperation. Use simple language and visuals to help them understand the process. 

For example, you could say, “The doctor will take a picture of your throat to see if any germs are making you sick.” Encourage your child to ask questions and address any concerns they may have. Practicing at home with a tongue depressor or popsicle stick can also help your child become familiar with the process. 

Praise and reward their cooperation during these practice sessions. Most importantly, avoid using scare tactics or threats, as they can increase anxiety and make the experience more traumatic. Instead, maintain a relaxed demeanor and use positive reinforcement and distraction techniques.

Physical Preparation for the Test 

Before getting the test, it’s important to avoid certain foods and drinks that could interfere with the results. Thick or colored liquids like milkshakes and juices and hard or crunchy foods like chips and crackers should be avoided for at least 1-2 hours before the test. 

This allows for a clear view of the throat and prevents residue from affecting the swab. You can also help prepare your child’s throat for the swab. Have them gargle with warm water or salt water to loosen any mucus or debris. 

You should also not forget to avoid using cough drops or lozenges before the test, as they can numb the throat and make it more difficult to swab. Additionally, consider bringing a favorite toy or blanket for distraction and comfort during the test.

During the Test: What to Expect

During the strep test, your child will typically be seated and asked to tilt their head back and open their mouth wide. The healthcare provider will then use a tongue depressor to gently hold down the tongue and swab the back of the throat and tonsil area. 

This may cause a brief gagging reflex, but it’s important to encourage your child to remain calm and still. To keep your child cooperative during the test, you can try deep breathing exercises, singing their favorite song, or reading a book aloud as a distraction. 

Offer praise and rewards for their cooperation, such as a small treat or sticker afterward. If the test is unsuccessful or needs to be repeated, remain calm and patient. Your healthcare provider may suggest trying a throat culture if the rapid test fails or rescheduling the test for another day.

After the Test: Next Steps

Once the test is complete, you’ll need to interpret the results. A positive result confirms the presence of strep throat, and your healthcare provider will likely prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. 

It’s important to follow the full course of antibiotics as prescribed, even if your child starts feeling better, to prevent the infection from recurring. If the test is negative but your child’s symptoms persist, it could indicate a viral infection or another condition. 

In this case, your healthcare provider may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers and symptom management while the illness runs its course. Regardless of the results, it’s essential to practice proper handwashing and hygiene, avoid sharing utensils or drinks, and keep your child home from school or activities until they are no longer contagious.

Closing Thoughts

Preparing your child for a strep test can help make the experience less stressful and more successful.

By understanding the process, emotionally and physically preparing your child, knowing what to expect during the test, and being aware of the next steps after the results, you can ensure your little one receives the proper diagnosis and treatment. Remember, your healthcare provider is there to guide you every step of the way.

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