Strep Throat: Do I Really Need Antibiotics?

Strep Throat Antibiotics

Strep Throat is an infection of throat and tonsils caused by a type of bacteria known as Group A Streptococcus. Although it is more common in children compared to adults, strep throat can affect people of any age. In an otherwise healthy person, the bacteria that causes strep throat can reside in the individual’s nose and throat without causing any symptoms of the condition.

Strep throat is not the reason for every sore throat, therefore, not all sore throat cases require medical attention. However, when the individual does have strep throat, he or she must take the full course the medication to treat the condition and prevent further complications.

What do the IDSA’s revised guidelines say?

In 2012, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) revised the guidelines for using antibiotics in the treatment of strep throat. This welcome move is aimed at providing an accurate diagnosis of the condition, and preventing or reducing the incidence of antimicrobial resistance caused by irrational use of antibiotics. Majority of the cases of sore throats are in fact throat infections caused by a virus.

These newly revised guidelines stress on using antibiotics only after the diagnosis ofsStrep Throat is confirmed by a Rapid Antigen Detection Test (RADT), or a throat culture depending upon the result of the former.

What are these guidelines saying?

  • The tests for strep throat are reserved only to the children and adults who do not have signs characteristic to a viral infection, such as cough, excessive nasal discharge, hoarseness, and mouth sores.
  • A strep throat is typically characterized by a sudden pain in the throat, pain while swallowing, and a fever in the absence of the above mentioned features of a viral infection. Even if you have all these signs, an antibiotic is prescribed only after the diagnosis is confirmed through testing.
  • If it is believed that you have strep throat, the guidelines recommend doctors confirm the diagnosis using rapid antigen detection test (RADT). As the name suggests, RADT takes only a few minutes to provide the results. If you have a negative RADT result, your doctor can recommend a follow-up throat culture, but only for children and adolescents. This follow-up test is not recommended for adults.
  • Though the results of the culture can take up to several days, the guidelines recommend doctors to avoid prescribing antibiotics until a test can confirm a true diagnosis.
  • Children three years old or younger do not need to be tested for strep throat.
  • Penicillin and amoxicillin are treatment options for strep throat because these medications are safe, effective, and less expensive compared to other treatment options. (Tell your doctor if you are allergic to any of these medications, learn more about penicillin allergy here).
  • If you are allergic to penicillin, your doctor may prescribe another class of broad spectrum antibiotics called macrolides, such as Azithromycin.
  • Children who suffer repeated throat infections in general are not recommend to have surgical removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy), as the risks of surgery are often greater than the benefits of the surgery. However, in a few cases, a tonsillectomy may be recommended.

Related:  Is Strep Throat Contagious?

The Bottom Line

You may be curious about what medications you are being prescribed and why a doctor    would prescribe medication without having a confirmed diagnosis. Don’t be afraid, as most doctors have the best judgment. Moreover, test results will provide a clear cut diagnosis to help decide what should be prescribed.

You can manage your sore throat with these tips, or schedule an appointment with a doctor near you.




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