Do I Need Antibiotics for Strep Throat?

Strep Throat and Proper Antibiotic Use

Strep Throat Antibiotics
Strep Throat Antibiotics. TEK IMAGE/Getty Images

Strep is an abbreviation for a family of bacteria called streptococciStrep throat occurs when the throat and surrounding structures become infected with this bacteria. With the discovery of superbugs, or bacteria that are resistant to many types of antibiotics, came the need for physicians to exercise what is known as antibiotic accountability. In order to prevent the evolution or increasing prevalence of superbugs, physicians are cautious with prescribing antibiotics only when necessary.

Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections like the common cold (rhinovirus) or the flu.

Strep throat is a case that definitely requires the prescription of an antibiotic.

Why Does Strep Throat Require Antibiotics

Strep throat should be treated with an antibiotic for many reasons. It reduces the duration of symptoms, prevents the rare but serious complications of untreated streptococci infections such as rheumatic fever (immune system triggered damage to heart valves) or glomerulonephritis (damaged kidneys), and reduces the spread to close contacts.

Before your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, he will likely verify the cause of your symptoms by performing a rapid strep test. Occasionally, a rapid strep test will have false negative results. For this reason, the culture is always sent to a laboratory for a few days. If the test becomes positive later on, your doctor will notify you and prescribe an antibiotic to treat your illness.

Strep Throat Antibiotic Choices

Antibiotic choice for treating strep throat is broken up into 2 categories, which includes options for those with and without allergies to penicillin. If you do not have an allergy to penicillin, you will likely be prescribed:

  • Penicillin V
  • Amoxicillin

However if you do have an allergy to penicillin, do not worry, there are also many options for you to take that will not cause an allergic reaction.

Appropriate treatment will come from a class of medications that is different from penicillin and includes the following antibiotics:

  • Cephalexin
  • Cefadroxil
  • Clindamycin
  • Azithromycin
  • Clarithromycin

`It is important that you complete the antibiotic regimen as prescribed. Not completing the full course of antibiotics can predispose you to not recovering from strep throat and continuing to have the symptoms and risks for acquiring other illnesses like rheumatic fever or kidney disease. The bacteria also then may become resistant to the antibiotic that you didn't complete, adding to the incidence of superbugs in our communities.


Medline Plus. Strep Throat. Accessed: February 14, 2009 from

Shulman, S.T., Bisno, A.L., Clegg H.W., Gerber, M.A., Kaplan, E.L., Lee, G., ... Beneden, C.V. (2012). Clinical Practice Guideline for the Diagnosis and Management of Group A Streptococcal Pharyngitis: 2012 Update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. doi:10.1093/cid/cis629

Continue Reading