/ Antibiotics
Best Antibiotics for Strep Throat

PlushCare takes content accuracy seriously so that we can be your trusted source of medical information. Most articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.D.s, NPs, or NDs. Click here to meet the healthcare professionals behind the blog.

The Best Antibiotics for Strep Throat

Strep throat formally known as streptococcal pharyngitis occurs when a certain type of bacterial infection causes the tissues at the back of your mouth and throat to become inflamed, irritated and sore. It is caused by a bacteria called group A streptococcus or GAS.

If diagnosed with this condition, you may be wondering what the best antibiotics for strep throat are. Unlike most other common causes of sore throat, strep throat is treated with a course of antibiotics to fight the infection and prevent rare complications.

We'll find out what the best antibiotics for strep throat are below. But first, let's learn more about symptoms, causes and who is at risk.

Strep Throat Symptoms

Strep throat refers to an inflammation of the throat caused by a bacterial infection. The infection leads to swelling in your tonsils and in the mucus membranes that line the back of your throat and causes an itchy, sore and swollen sensation in the throat.

The most frequently reported symptoms of strep throat include:

  • Throat pain
  • Red swollen tonsils
  • Whitish patches at the back of the throat
  • Pain or difficulty with swallowing
  • Swollen tender lymph nodes (glands) in the neck
  • Fever
  • Strep throat can also sometimes cause a rash and upset stomach or nausea.

The symptoms and severity of strep throat vary from person to person and depend on age. A sore and itchy throat is a primary sypmtom of strep throat.

In addition, your tonsils, along with the back of your throat may look red and swollen and have patches of white. Another symptom is painful swallowing.

Strep Throat Symptoms in Children

Symptoms of strep throat in toddlers, kids and adults differs from person to person, but are mainly categorized by the sudden onset of a sore throat that appears red with patches of white. The sore throat makes swallowing painful or difficult.

The variety of symptoms a child might experience includes all of the symptoms listed above, as well as:

  • Swollen tonsils
  • Joint stiffness
  • General discomfort

Its important to note that not all sore throats are strep throat. Most sore throats are actually caused by viral infections, not bacteria. Sore throats caused by viruses can be just as painful and uncomfortable.

If your child has a sore throat that is accompanied by cold symptoms, like sneezing, coughing, a runny nose, or red eyes, they are most likely suffering from a viral infection, which should generally resolve itself over time without treatment.

If you are not sure about your child’s symptoms, it’s wise to air on the side of caution and book an appointment to make sure that they do not have a viral infection.

Who is at risk?

Strep throat can occur at any age but is most common among children and young adults. Infection rates peak during the late fall, winter and early spring.

Strep throat is contagious and can be spread amongst individuals having close contact such as family members or those in a school or daycare setting.

Diagnosis and Strep Throat Treatment

Strep throat is generally diagnosed when your doctor performs a medical history and examination. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between viral sore throats and strep throat just based on symptoms and examination findings.

In these cases your doctor may perform a throat swab that can detect if the strep bacteria is present.

When a sore throat is diagnosed as strep throat a course of antibiotics is prescribed to treat the infection. Sometimes over the counter medications are given to help with pain and fever.

Importantly, aspirin should not be given to children and adolescents with suspected strep throat as it may lead to a potentially serious illness called Reye’s syndrome. So what are the best antibiotics for strep throat? Find out whcih ones are most commonly prescribed below.

Antibiotics Used for Strep Throat

Once you know for sure that you have strep throat, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics for you.

When taking antibiotics, your condition should improve within one or two days (after which point you are no longer contagious, but make sure to take the full course of the antibiotics to avoid a recurring infection.

Some of the most common antibiotics your doctor might prescribe include:

Penicillin - Unless you are allergic to it, penicillin is the first antibiotic choice for treating strep throat. It was first introduced in the 1940s and has been the primary antibiotic for a wide range of ailments. Since its discovery, penicillin has consistently eliminated group A Streptococcus. There has yet to be a strain of the bacteria grown from a human that is resistant to penicillin.

Amoxicillin - A broader spectrum form of penicillin, amoxicillin may be more effective and convenient for some patients. Research suggests that a single daily dose of amoxicillin may be just as effective as multiple doses of penicillin taken in a day. Amoxicillin also tends to taste better than penicillin. However, amoxicillin can more commonly cause skin rash and gastrointestinal problems.

Amoxicillin Clavulanate Potassium - Amoxycillin clavulanate potassium is more frequently used to treat recurring cases of strep throat. Marketed as Augmentin, amoxicillin clavulanate potassium is resistant to degradation or damage caused by waste products like beta-lactamase created by Streptococcus.

Amoxicillin clavulanate potassium is more frequently used to treat recurring cases of strep throat. Chronic carriers of the group A Streptococcus bacteria are typically prescribed amoxicillin clavulanate. The main side effect of amoxicillin clavulanate potassium is that it can cause diarrhea.

Azithromycin - Azithromycin is best used for those who are allergic penicillin or tried penicillin with no results.

Clarithromycin - Clarithromycin goes by the brand name Biaxin and may act as a good alternative for those with penicillin allergies.

Clindamycin - Clindamycin is effective for those who are allergic to penicillin or have a case of strep throat that is resistant to penicillin.

Cefdiner - Branded as Omnicef, research suggests that a five-day course of cefdinir is equal to a ten-day regimen with pencillin.

When taken within the first 48 hours of the illness’ onset, antibiotics can reduce the severity of the symptoms and the amount of time they’ll last.

Taking antibiotics for strep throat early also significantly decreases the risk of more serious complications and the spread of the disease to others. You should start feeling better and show improvement within a day or two after treatment.

It’s important to continue and take the full course of antibiotics to completely eliminate the strep bacteria from your system. Most antibiotic courses last up to 10 days. Stopping midway may cause a relapse that may lead to even more serious conditions, including kidney inflammation or rheumatic fever.

Your doctor may also suggest some simple over-the-counter medications to relieve pain in your throat and reduce fever. These may include acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Antibiotics not suitable for treating strep throat include fluoroquinolones, metronidazole, tetracyclines, and trimethoprim sulfamethoxazole.

Online doctor diagnosis

While specifics may differ depending on the doctor, most online doctor visits follow the same basic process. First, you make an appointment.

Next, you will have a video chat with a doctor and take a picture of your throat. Having a video appointment helps you not only connect and chat with your doctor, but also helps them look at your symptoms and be able to accurately diagnose your condition.

During this appointment, be sure to give your doctor all your relevant medical information. Tell them what's bothering you, ask questions and anything else you woudl during a routine in-office visit. The only difference is that you're doing all this from the comfort of your own home.

Once your assessment is completed, your online doctor will diagnose you and tell you whether you have strep throat and if so the kind of strep throat treatment you will need. The doctor can diagnose a likely case of strep throat and call in a prescription for antibiotics if needed.

Finally, if a prescription is needed, your online doctor will send it electronically to a pharmacy of your choosing. You'll then be able to pick up your prescription, if needed, at your pharmacy, and be on the road to feeling better.

Read More About Best Antibiotics For Strep Throat

How to Treat Strep Throat: Treatment, Prescriptions and Natural Remedies
Strept Throat Treatment
Sore Throat Symptoms and Treatment
Online Doctor Prescription

Doctor on phone
Dr. Umer Khan

Dr. Umer Khan

Medically reviewed by Dr Umer Khan, MD who is a Board Certified physician practicing in Pennsylvania. His special interests include wellness, longevity and medical IT.

Read More