Strep Throat Medicines

Strep throat is a contagious bacterial infection of the throat which is caused by the Streptococcus bacterium. Symptoms include sore throat, swelling and inflammation of the membranes lining the posterior aspect of the tonsils and throat. Strep throat medicine involves various types of antibiotics and painkillers. The former helps take care of the infection so that complications don't develop; the latter makes it easier to tolerate the infection while it is healing.

The Most Important Medicine—Antibiotics

1. How It Helps

Antibiotics help by killing the bacteria or stopping its growth so that your immune system can help fight off the infection. Without the antibiotics, your immune system could have a hard time fighting off the infection alone and complications can develop.

2. When It Is Needed

You need to take strep throat medicines if:

  • You have a positive strep culture or a positive rapid strep test;
  • You have symptoms of strep throat, such as a fever, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, spots or a white coating on the tonsils or throat;
  • You have suffered from rheumatic fever and have been near someone who has strep;
  • There are repetitive strep infections in the family.

3. Choose the Best Antibiotics

The main antibiotics for strep throat are listed below:

  • Penicillin. This is the most common treatment for strep throat. In liquid or pill form, it needs to be taken three times daily. The penicillin liquid used in children does not taste very good. A penicillin shot can also be used. It may be painful, but one shot takes care of the infection and saves you the trouble of taking pills.
  • Amoxicillin. This is another commonly used medication for strep throat. It needs to be taken twice daily. It is important that you take the amoxicillin for the entire ten days of treatment so that the strep throat does not return.
  • Cephalosporins. This is a type of antibiotic that has been known to be great for the management of strep throat, especially for those allergic to penicillin. It stops the growth of bacteria so that your immune system can sweep in and kill them all.

Another Useful Medicine—Analgesics

Analgesics include medicationslike acetaminophen or paracetamol, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). They can help to alleviate the pain caused by strep throat. You may also take viscous lidocaine as a topical anesthetic for pain. If you are an adult, you may use aspirin, but it cannot be used in children because of the risk of getting Reye's syndrome. Besides, steroids may reduce the pain but are not usually recommended for strep throat.

Precautions of Taking Medication for Strep Throat

Almost all medications have some mild or severe side effects. You should pay special attention to the following side effects when taking strep throat medicines:

1. Common Side Effects

When taking strep throat medication, you may have side effects like diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and a skin rash. These are usually self-limiting and will go away once you have stopped taking the antibiotics.

2. Call for medical help

Call or visit your doctorif you experience swelling of the throat, tongue, face or lips. You should also seek medical attention if you experience light-headedness, fainting or hives after taking the strep throat medicine.

Your doctor may be able to change the medication altogether or may choose to lower your dose. You should never quit the medication on your own unless the doctor indicates that it is safe to do so.

Note: If you happen to be pregnant, are nursing, or are trying to get pregnant, you shouldn't take any medicines unless your doctor says it is okay to take them. Some medications can be harmful to the baby and your doctor can help you sort out which medications are safe to take. 

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