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Strep Throat (cont.)

Home Treatment

Your doctor may have prescribed an antibiotic for strep throat. Take all of the antibiotic exactly as prescribed. This will help prevent the infection from coming back and will prevent complications of infection that could occur if you do not take the medicine as prescribed.

There are many ways that you can make yourself feel better while you are waiting for the strep infection to go away.

  • Drink plenty of fluids and increase humidity (moisture in the air) in your home to help keep your throat moist. Herbal teas formulated for colds may help relieve symptoms.
  • Take nonprescription medicines to relieve a painful sore throat and reduce fever.
  • Get plenty of rest. Stay home the first day of antibiotic treatment. You are still contagious and might pass the infection to others. Rest in bed if you feel very sick. Bed rest is not required if you feel fine.

For the first 24 hours after you start taking an antibiotic, you are still contagious. You can avoid passing the strep throat infection to others and reinfecting yourself by:

  • Avoiding sneezing or coughing on others.
  • Washing your hands often.
  • Using tissues you can throw away, not handkerchiefs.
  • Throwing out your toothbrush as soon as you feel sick. Replace it again when you are well. You can also clean your toothbrush well before using it again. Bacteria can collect on the bristles and reinfect you.

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.4

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:

Click here to view a Decision Point.Sore Throat: Should I Take Antibiotics?

Medication Choices

Antibiotics such as penicillin, cephalexin, or amoxicillin 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.3

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