Treatment for Strep Throat

Strep throat is treated with a course of antibiotics. In people who are not allergic, penicillin (including amoxicillin) is the preferred treatment for strep throat. Other antibiotics used to treat strep throat include erythromycin, azithromycin, clarithromycin, and cephalexin. Most antibiotics are taken for 10 days; however, some, such as azithromycin (Zithromax), require a shorter course (e.g., 5 days).

Report any side effects (e.g., stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea) to your physician. Rash, swelling of the lips and tongue, and difficulty breathing may indicate an allergic reaction. If any of these symptoms occur, call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately. Some antibiotics (including azithromycin and levofloxacin) may cause an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) in certain patients.

Once treatment has begun, symptoms usually go away within 1 week. In many cases, the patient begins to feel better as soon as 24–48 hours after starting medications. However, it is extremely important to take the entire course of medication. If antibiotics are stopped too early, all of the Streptococcus bacteria may not be destroyed and re-infection or other complications (e.g., resistance of the bacteria to antibiotic treatment) may result.

In addition to antibiotics, home-care treatments can be used. Ask your physician about using over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (e.g., Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Do not give aspirin to children under the age of 18. Aspirin increases the risk for a serious medical condition called Reye syndrome in children.

The following treatments can help reduce strep throat symptoms:

  • Drink plenty of fluids (e.g., water, fruit juice) to prevent dehydration
  • Eat soft foods, such as yogurt and applesauce, and drink broths and teas
  • Gargle with warm salt water
  • Get enough rest

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015