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Why do doctors take throat cultures?

Why do doctors take throat cultures? When they put the stick so far down my throat, it makes me gag.

Stacy McConnell Lockport, New York Dear Stacy:

Strep throat is caused by the bacterium streptococcus. Throat cultures help doctors find out if a throat infection is caused by streptococcus.

To get a sample of your throat mucus, doctors must touch the back of your throat and your tonsils with a long, cotton-tipped stick. That is where the bacteria grow.

Unfortunately, going that far back in the mouth usually triggers your gag reflex. Gagging is scary and uncomfortable. But it lasts just a few seconds, and it will not harm you.

After getting the sample that they need, doctors smear the tip of the stick onto a special culture dish. If streptococcus bacteria are on the stick, they will grow in the culture dish. Then the doctor will treat your infection with antibiotics.

If bacteria do not grow, then the infection is probably caused by a virus, and antibiotics will not help.
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Title Annotation:Ask Doctor Cory
Author:SerVaas, Cory
Publication:Children's Digest
Date:Sep 1, 1995
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