8 Things to Know About At-Home Strep Tests

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Healthcare providers have been using rapid strep tests to diagnose strep throat since the 1980s, but in 2017, a study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) revealed that parents felt confident about testing for strep at home.

Rapid strep tests give results in minutes. They are not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use at home. However, they can be purchased over the counter, either online or in pharmacies.

If you or your child has a sore throat and you're considering an at-home strep test, here are eight things to know about them.

A child with a sore throat at home on couch under blanket
chameleonseye / Getty Images.

Strep Throat Diagnosis With an At-Home Test

A rapid test for strep can be useful for helping determine whether you need to contact a healthcare provider for further diagnosis. Here are things to know about at-home strep tests.

It Tests for the Strep Throat Cause

Strep throat is caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. Up to about 25% of sore throats in children are due to strep. A rapid strep test determines whether this bacterium is present. It will not detect viral causes of a sore throat.

Strep Throat May Be Treated With Antibiotics

Unlike a sore throat caused by a virus, strep can be treated with antibiotics. Treatment can shorten the illness, prevent spreading it to others, and prevent serious but rare complications.

While an at-home rapid strep throat test will give you a result in minutes, you'll need to contact a healthcare provider for a diagnosis of the infection and to get a prescription for antibiotics.

At-Home Strep Tests Seeking FDA Approval

Though rapid tests for strep are approved by the FDA for healthcare professionals, they are not approved for home use, even if the box says "FDA approved." or "FDA cleared." A brand of rapid strep test intended for home use is currently undergoing clinical trials for approval by the FDA.

When to Take an At-Home Strep Test

If you or your child has a sore throat with a fever, you can perform an at-home test to help you determine whether to contact a healthcare professional about treatment. Symptoms that make it less likely that a sore throat is due to strep throat are cough, runny nose, hoarseness, and pink eye.

One Age Group Is Most at Risk

At-home tests may be particularly useful for children between 5 and 15 years old. Though complications are not common, these children are at a higher risk of developing rheumatic fever or other conditions that can damage various organs, including the heart and kidneys.

Adults and children under age 3 are at lower risk for strep and complications if they get strep throat. In these age groups, strep throat may resolve without treatment.

Accuracy of At-Home Strep Tests

Done correctly, at-home strep tests accurately detect strep about 86% of the time, according to a 2016 study. A negative test is estimated to be accurate about 95% of the time.

False-negative results, in which strep throat is present but the test shows it is not, can occur. If the test is negative, you may still choose to consult a healthcare provider to confirm the result or to find out what is causing the symptoms.

Up to 15% of children may have strep but no symptoms. A healthcare provider may determine these children do not need antibiotics.

A rapid test performed by a healthcare provider or a throat culture taken during a visit to a healthcare provider can confirm a strep diagnosis. Some healthcare providers may prescribe antibiotics via telemedicine after an at-home test, but check with your healthcare provider.

Where to Find an At-Home Strep Test

If the FDA approves a home strep test kit, it is likely to become widely available. You may be able to buy at-home strep tests either online or in pharmacies before this formal approval. Make sure you buy from a reputable outlet, no matter where you purchase the kit. The kits should be the same as those distributed to healthcare professionals.

You May Not Save a Visit to a Healthcare Provider

Though an at-home strep test may be less expensive than going to a healthcare provider, bear in mind that you may still need confirmation of either a positive or negative result, and you cannot get antibiotics without a prescription.

At-Home Strep Test Instructions

At-home rapid test kits generally follow a similar set of instructions, but read the directions carefully before you proceed.

Typically, you mix two vials of liquid into a tube. Use the swab included in the kit to collect a sample of mucus from the back of the throat and swirl it into the tube.

You need to do the test right away by adding a few drops of the mixture to a test strip or a small well. The test will show results after a few minutes.

Generally, you have about 15 minutes to read the results before the test is no longer valid. Remember that instructions may vary depending on which brand of test you've obtained.

Reading Results of an At-Home Strep Test

Usually, the test strip has a control line that you'll see when you look at it. If another line appears after you put the sample on it, even if it's faint, that is a positive result for strep A. If no line appears, the result is negative.

Remember that although these tests are generally accurate when done correctly, they are not 100% reliable and can give you a false positive (indicating the illness exists when it does not) or a false negative.

Getting Treatment After Your Results

Even if the results of a home strep test are negative, you should consider checking with a healthcare provider, particularly if the test is done on a child age 5 to 15, who may be at higher risk for complications.

The healthcare provider can do a rapid strep test and may also take a throat culture, which will be analyzed in a lab and is considered a definitive diagnosis.

If the rapid test is positive and the person has symptoms, the healthcare provider can prescribe a course of antibiotics, usually given for 10 days, to kill the strep bacteria.


At-home tests for strep throat are available online or in pharmacies and are generally accurate when done correctly. However, they may give false-positive or false-negative results. If your test is positive and a healthcare provider confirms the diagnosis, you will receive a prescription for antibiotics to cure the bacterial infection.

If the result is negative, you may still want to consult a healthcare provider in case the test wasn't done properly, the result is inaccurate, or you have another condition that's causing the sore throat.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Strep throat: all you need to know.

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  5. Cohen JF, Bertille N, Cohen R, Chalumeau M. Rapid antigen detection test for group A streptococcus in children with pharyngitis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2016;(7). doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010502.pub2

  6. Othman AM, Assayaghi RM, Al-Shami HZ, Saif-Ali R. Asymptomatic carriage of Streptococcus pyogenes among school children in Sana’a city, Yemen. BMC Research Notes. 2019;12(1):339. doi:10.1186/s13104-019-4370-5.

  7. Children's MD. Home tests for strep throat– are they worth it?

  8. Health Match. At home strep tests: comprehensive guide.

By Nancy LeBrun
In addition to her extensive health and wellness writing, Nancy has written about many general interest topics for publications as diverse as Newsweek, Teen Vogue, abcnews.com, and Craftsmanship Quarterly. She has authored a book about documentary filmmaking, a screenplay about a lost civil rights hero, and ghostwritten several memoirs.