Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

A number of medications are available to cure strep throat, relieve its symptoms and prevent its spread.

Antibiotics

If you or your child has strep throat, your doctor will likely prescribe an oral antibiotic such as:

  • Penicillin. This drug may be given by injection in some cases — such as if you have a young child who is having a hard time swallowing or is vomiting.
  • Amoxicillin. This drug is in the same family as penicillin, but is often a preferred option for children because it tastes better and is available as a chewable tablet.

If you or your child is allergic to penicillin, your doctor likely may prescribe:

  • A cephalosporin such as cephalexin (Keflex)
  • Clarithromycin (Biaxin)
  • Azithromycin (Zithromax, Zmax)
  • Clindamycin

These antibiotics reduce the duration and severity of symptoms, as well as the risk of complications and the likelihood that infection will spread to classmates or family members.

Once treatment begins, you or your child should start feeling better in just a day or two. Call your doctor if you or your child doesn't feel better after taking antibiotics for 48 hours.

If children taking antibiotic therapy feel well and don't have a fever, they often can return to school or child care when they're no longer contagious — usually 24 hours after beginning treatment. But be sure to finish the entire course of medicine. Stopping medication early may lead to recurrences and serious complications, such as rheumatic fever or kidney inflammation.

Symptom relievers

In addition to antibiotics, your doctor may suggest over-the-counter medications to relieve throat pain and reduce fever, such as:

  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others)

Because of the risk of Reye's syndrome, a potentially life-threatening illness, don't give aspirin to young children and teenagers. Read and follow label directions. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions.

Dec. 20, 2012

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