About Pharyngitis: Making the Diagnosis

When examining a person with pharyngitis, the doctor will check for swollen neck glands and check the throat for coating (exudates) and drainage. If the doctor suspects that a person might have Strep throat, a throat swab will be performed in order to identify the microorganism causing the pharyngitis. Throat swabs are carried out with the use of sterile cotton that is swabbed near the area of the tonsils and then placed in a tube that contains good growing conditions for bacteria. If the bacteria grow in the tube, they can easily be identified by the laboratory as Group A Streptococcus (the bacteria that cause Strep throat). A smear of the throat swab may be placed on a microscope slide in an attempt to verify that the organisms causing the infection are bacteria. The results of the culture itself, specifying the type of bacteria causing the infection usually take a few days to come back from the laboratory. The throat swab often causes a gagging sensation when the swab touches the back of the throat, but the whole process usually takes only two to three seconds.

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