Understanding strep throat
Strep throat is an infection of your throat and tonsils, the two small tissue masses in the back of your throat. The infection can cause symptoms such as sore throat and swollen glands. It can also cause fever, loss of appetite, and white spots on your tonsils.
Strep throat is caused by bacteria, so it’s treated with an antibiotic. Treatment with an antibiotic can shorten the amount of time you have strep throat symptoms and decrease the spread of infection to other people.
Antibiotics can also prevent strep throat from turning into a more serious illness, such as rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is a disease that can damage your heart valves.
Z-Pack is a form of the brand-name drug Zithromax, which contains the antibiotic azithromycin. Azithromycin is an antibiotic that can treat strep throat, though it’s not a common choice for this infection.
Azithromycin is used to treat many different kinds of bacterial infections, including bronchitis and pneumonia. However, it’s not typically the first choice for treating strep throat. The antibiotics amoxicillin or penicillin are most often used for this condition.
That said, azithromycin or Z-Pack may be used to treat strep throat in certain cases. For instance, your doctor may prescribe it if you’re allergic to penicillin, amoxicillin, or other antibiotics that are used more often to treat strep throat.
SPREADING STREP THROAT
You can easily spread a strep throat infection through direct contact with mucus from your nose or throat, such as by coughing or sneezing. You can also spread it by drinking from the same glass as someone else or sharing a plate of food with them.
You’re much less likely to spread the infection to other people if you’ve been taking an antibiotic for at least 24 hours.
If your doctor thinks azithromycin is a good choice for you, they may prescribe a generic version of azithromycin or a Z-Pack.
Each Z-Pack contains six 250-milligram (mg) tablets of Zithromax. You would take two tablets on the first day, followed by one tablet daily for four days.
A Z-Pack typically takes at least five days to fully work, but it can start to relieve your sore throat and other symptoms on the first day you take it. If your doctor prescribes a generic version of azithromycin, your treatment may only last three days.
Be sure to take your Z-Pack or generic azithromycin exactly as your doctor prescribes. This is true even if you feel better before you’ve taken the full course of treatment.
If you stop taking an antibiotic early, it could make the infection come back or make future infections more difficult to treat.
As with any medication, azithromycin can cause side effects. Some of the more common side effects include:
Less common and more serious side effects can also occur when taking azithromycin. Call your doctor right away if you have any of these side effects:
- allergic reaction, with symptoms such as skin rash or swelling of your lips or tongue
- yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes
- easy bleeding or bruising
- severe diarrhea or diarrhea that doesn’t go away
- heart rhythm problems
If you have strep throat, your doctor will prescribe the antibiotic they think is most appropriate for you. In most cases, this would be penicillin or amoxicillin. However, some people are prescribed a Z-Pack or generic azithromycin.
If you have further questions about either medication, be sure to ask your doctor. Your questions might include:
- Is this the best drug to treat my strep throat?
- Am I allergic to penicillin or amoxicillin? If so, are there any other drugs I should avoid?
- What should I do if my throat still hurts after I finish my medication?
- What can I do to relieve my sore throat while I wait for the antibiotic to work?
What is a drug allergy?
A drug allergy is an allergic reaction to a medication. The allergy can vary from mild to extremely serious or even life-threatening. The most serious drug allergies are anaphylaxis and swelling of the face and throat, as they can affect your ability to breath.
Some mild drug reactions, such as hives or rash, are not always true drug allergies but should be treated just as seriously as any other symptom.
If you have experienced any type of reaction to a medication in the past, talk to your doctor and seek emergency medical treatment if you take a medication that causes your throat to swell or makes it difficult for you to breath or speak.Dena Westphalen, PharmDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.