'Tis the season for patients coming in with sore throats, headaches, fever, chills, and muscle pains. You know what that means—the early signs of common seasonal illnesses that call for swab testing. To ensure patient comfort and minimize transmission in the general population, these illnesses require swift clinical diagnosis and treatment.
Every fall and winter, healthcare providers should prepare for common illnesses by stocking up on medical swabs and practicing the most efficient testing methods. Among those illnesses, strep throat stands out as one of the more uncomfortable bacterial infections to deal with.
In this post, we’re sharing the in’s and out’s of strep throat, including symptoms, diagnosis tips, the best swabs for your needs, and more. Let’s take a closer look.
What is strep throat?
Strep throat is a contagious bacterial infection caused by the Group A Streptococcus bacteria, which leads to a sore throat, typically with a sudden onset of severe pain and difficulty swallowing.
While patients can get strep throat year-round, you’re likely seeing cases rise during the late fall through early spring – that’s because strep is more common among kids and is spread more pervasively when children are in close contact.
What symptoms should I look out for with strep throat?
When looking out for strep throat symptoms, keep an eye out for:
Swollen and tender lymph nodes in the neck
Throat redness and inflammation
White or yellow spots/patches on the back of the throat and tonsils
Nausea or vomiting (less common)
As with influenza, many seasonal illnesses require swift clinical diagnosis and treatment to ensure patient comfort and to minimize transmission in the general population – and strep throat is no different. Strep throat is highly treatable with a common course of antibiotics. Left untreated, it can cause severe complications, including rheumatic fever, serious kidney failure, and in some cases, even death.
How contagious is strep throat?
Strep throat is highly contagious, especially in the early stages of infection and before treatment with antibiotics has begun. It spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or even talks. The risk of transmission is particularly high in close-contact settings like households, schools, and daycare facilities. So, if you’re diagnosed with strep, it’s important to steer clear of high-traffic public areas to reduce transmission risk.
With fast diagnosis being paramount, let’s take a closer look at diagnosis details.
Strep throat diagnosis
In addition to a host of other vectors and rare diseases, some seasonal illnesses can develop side complications such as pneumonia or infections, which are bacterial in nature. Because many common fall and winter illnesses have similar symptoms, the first step towards a diagnosis of strep throat is distinguishing between a bacterial and viral origin, followed by clinical tests to further establish a specific cause. This will allow you to confirm that it is, in fact, strep.
According to the CDC, while there are telltale signs of strep throat, like the presence of white patches or streaks of pus, the only sure way to diagnose strep throat is by conducting a strep test.
Diagnosis has progressed to become more efficient and accurate than ever. Even so, where sample size may be limited, it’s crucial that the healthcare provider is able to collect and preserve the highest quality swab sample for culture, tests, and diagnostics. In the case of testing for strep throat, it’s also important to use medical products that don’t cause discomfort for the patient.
This leads us to…
The best swab types and materials for testing for strep throat
Puritan Medical Products understands the unique needs of medical professionals during these high-volume winter months. To make it easier to ensure you have everything you have on hand, out of our vast catalog of products, we recommend:
Puritan’s tongue depressor: This can be used to examine the mouth and throat with minimal added discomfort.
Opti-Swab Liquid Amies system: Used for the collection and transport of clinically significant bacteria. Composed of medical grade materials for superior performance, our liquid amies vials contain modified liquid Amies medium, which maintains viability of aerobic, anaerobic, and fastidious bacteria. Our liquid amies system guarantees the most efficient absorption and elution of sample, along with safe, reliable preservation. This transport system is available in three configurations with one standard, one mini-tip, or one ultrafine tip HydraFlock swab for specimen collection.
HydraFlock® swabs: These proprietary swabs are composed of multi-length, “split-end” fibers, which are uniquely engineered for a greater surface area, resulting in faster collection, patient comfort, and increased viability of sample from swab to culture to laboratory.
Now that we’ve covered the materials you need available, let’s get into the “how to.”
How to swab for strep throat
With flu season underway, it’s crucial for clinics, hospitals and diagnostic labs around the world to keep in stock the highest quality specimen-collection products. Even though this season shouldn't be as bad as last year's, we all know that the best defense is a good offense. As healthcare professionals know, the best way to stop the flu is with fast diagnosis and immediate treatment.
Here’s a quick run-through on how to start swabbing in three simple steps:
Have the patient tilt their head back.
Using a tongue depressor, press down on the tongue to get a clear view of the mouth and throat.
Swab the posterior nasopharynx, tonsillar arches and other inflamed areas. Avoid touching the patient’s tongue, cheeks and teeth.
If preferred, in this short video, you’ll find quick step-by-step directions for taking a throat culture:
You’ll find more helpful resources in our Strep Throat Portal, including a handy infographic you can print and post in your testing area.
Why Buy Swabs from Puritan?
All of Puritan’s line of medical products are manufactured in the United States, adhere to strict quality control guidelines, and are always customizable to customer specifications. Because of this, our customers can feel secure that their laboratories and clinics will never run out of necessary swabbing supplies during the busy winter influx of patients. For decades, Puritan Medical Products has been the go-to for the world’s best medical swabs.
We hope you stay healthy this coming season!
Want to learn more about our manufacturing processes and what type of swabs we offer? Get in touch with our team today.