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Strep Throat - Medications

Antibiotics are the treatment of choice for a confirmed strep throat infection.

  • Antibiotics will reduce the time you are contagious. You are usually not contagious 24 hours after starting antibiotics.
  • Antibiotic treatment for strep throat can also help prevent some of the rare complications related either to the strep infection itself or to the body's immune response to the infection. Complications of strep throat are rare but can occur, especially if strep throat is not properly treated.
  • Antibiotics may shorten the time you are sick by about one day.2

When antibiotics may be used

Antibiotics may be used in the following situations:

  • You have had a positive rapid strep test or positive throat culture.
  • You have three or more of the following signs or symptoms:
    • A recent fever
    • White or yellow spots or coating on the throat or tonsils
    • Swollen or tender lymph nodes on the neck
    • Absence of signs of a cold or other upper respiratory illness, such as coughing or sneezing
  • You have recently had rheumatic fever and have been exposed to strep. Preventive antibiotics may be given in some cases.
  • Several family members are having repeated strep infections as confirmed by positive throat cultures.

It is possible for you to carry the strep bacteria in the throat and not have any symptoms. Antibiotics for the carrier state are usually not needed unless you have a history of rheumatic fever or frequent infections or infections are occurring frequently in the family.

For more information, see:

Sore Throat: Should I Take Antibiotics?

Medicine choices

Antibiotics such as amoxicillin, cephalexin, or penicillin are used to treat strep throat infection.

What to think about

Immediate treatment with an antibiotic after a positive rapid strep test may not make you well faster. But it will 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. But there is no harm in delaying medicine treatment 1 to 2 days to wait for the results of a throat culture. Antibiotics will prevent rheumatic fever even if it is started up to 9 days after symptoms begin.1

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: July 16, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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    Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

    Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

    SOURCES:

    American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

    This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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