If you suspect your child has strep throat, and you’re considering trying a home test kit, you may want to reconsider. Yes, these strep home test kits are modestly priced and convenient, but there are risks involved with attempting to test for strep at home.
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The test checks for group A streptococcal infection in the throat, and these infections can result in serious complications in kids more than adults.
If strep is not discovered and treated in time, these post-strep infections may include (and are not limited to):
- Rheumatic fever, which may affect the heart and the joints.
- Glomerulonephritis, which may injure the kidneys.
- Scarlet fever, which involves a high fever and rash.
I recommend visiting a doctor’s office rather than attempting the test at home. As pediatricians, we are interested in making an accurate and timely diagnosis so we can start the appropriate treatment promptly.
Also, performing the swab for the strep test requires certain skill sets; our clinical caregivers in the office are trained to do these tests. Their quality and safety are observed and maintained.
If the rapid strep test in your doctor’s office comes back negative, we will follow that with a culture that will take 24 hours to confirm the diagnosis. This way, we are sure not miss a false negative test.
On the other hand, even if parents follow directions carefully, it’s possible that a lack of skill or training in swabbing the throat could affect the test’s results.
A home strep test could potentially:
- Give a false negative result.
- Ignore other related signs and symptoms.
- Create bias in the person giving the test to see it as negative; as a result, a child may not come to the office for necessary antibiotics.
- May result in overuse of antibiotics if a test reading is a false positive.
- Miss an abscess around the tonsils; to the untrained eye, all red throat might look the same.
For a variety of reasons, it’s best to be safe and seek a diagnosis in your pediatrician’s office.
— Pediatrician Wadie Shabab, MD