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Antibiotics for Strep Throat

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
amoxicillin  
cephalexin Keflex
erythromycin ERYC, Ery-Tab
penicillin  

Penicillin is often the first choice of antibiotic for strep throat unless you are allergic to it.

Most antibiotics are taken for 10 days. Or a single shot of penicillin may be given. The shot does not help you get better any faster than other types of penicillin.

How It Works

Antibiotics help kill the bacteria that cause infection.

Why It Is Used

Antibiotics may be prescribed if you have strep throat. Your doctor may diagnose strep throat by talking to you, examining you, and looking in your mouth. The doctor also may lightly rub the back of your throat with a long cotton swab, to test for strep bacteria.

How Well It Works

Antibiotics may not make you well faster. But they shorten the time you are able to spread the disease to others. Antibiotics also lower the risk of the infection spreading to other parts of your body.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Fainting or lightheadedness.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Skin rash.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Antibiotics cannot always kill bacteria (antibiotic resistance), in part because they are used too much or are used incorrectly. You can help prevent antibiotic resistance by taking all of your medicine as directed, even if you feel better after a few days. If you stop taking your medicine too soon, bacteria that are not killed in the first few days of treatment can grow stronger and become resistant to the antibiotic.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Donald R. Mintz, MD - Otolaryngology
Current as of August 2, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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