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What are the Different Types of Tonsillitis Antibiotics?

By Bobbie Fredericks
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils, and bacterial forms of the disease can be treated by a variety of antibiotics. Streptococcus, or strep, is the usual cause of bacterial tonsillitis, and penicillin is the most common antibiotic prescribed to treat it. Other tonsillitis antibiotics are prescribed in the case of penicillin allergy.

Penicillin, or the related drug amoxicillin, are the standard treatment for tonsillitis. The normal dose for adults is 500 milligrams, taken twice daily for seven to ten days. The dose for children varies by age. Allergic or other adverse reactions to penicillin and related drugs are fairly common, so if there is a history of either of these, an alternative antibiotic must be used.

Erythromycin is sometimes prescribed when the patient has had a previous reaction to a drug in the penicillin family. The dosing is the same as that of the penicillin drugs. There is some evidence that strep bacteria is becoming resistant to erythromycin, however, so other drug options are often considered first.

Azithromycin can also be used if patients have penicillin sensitivities. This drug is typically given in a pack of five 250 milligram pills. Two are taken the first day, and then one is taken each subsequent day until the pills are gone. Azithromycin has the advantage of not interacting with many other drugs, so it is often given to patients who take a lot of medications. Like erythromycin, some strains of strep bacteria are becoming resistant.

Streptococcus currently shows no resistance to doxycycline. The typical adult dose is 100 milligrams twice daily. This drug may stain the teeth of children, so it should only be considered if there are sensitivities to other antibiotics.

Cephalexin may be considered if there is an allergy or sensitivity to penicillin drugs, although about 20% of patients react to both. There is no evidence for strep resistance, and the typical dose is the same as the penicillin drugs. Cephalexin does not have many drug interactions and is generally well-tolerated, producing few side effects.

There are many tonsillitis antibiotics available, and most will destroy the most common cause of bacterial tonsillitis, streptococcus. Some drugs may not be effective, however, since strep is becoming resistant to them. This can happen when antibiotics are given when they are not needed, such as to treat a viral infection. It can also happen if patients stop taking the drug before all of their pills are gone.

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Discussion Comments
By nanny3 — On Aug 16, 2011

I know that it used to be fairly common for people to be treated for tonsillitis by having them removed.

And then, for some reason, this fell out of practice significantly. I suppose doctor’s felt that often the surgery was largely unnecessary. Of course, no one wants to go under the knife unless they have to.

However, we went round and round with our doctor when he plain flat refused to entertain the notion of having our son’s tonsils removed. He constantly dealt with tonsillitis, sore throats and infections.

He was miserable, and after the fifth bout of it in about a year and a half, we broached the subject. The reason that the doctor didn’t want to do the surgery was because he thought that the child would outgrow the tendency.

Be that as it may, the poor boy was miserable for a good part of the time when he was fighting it. We found another doctor who agreed that stronger measures than antibiotics alone needed to be taken.

After all, it isn’t good to be on antibiotics all of the time either – especially for a child.

By oscar23 — On Aug 16, 2011

I think that tonsillitis is contagious, isn’t it? I know that when one child in my daughter’s Pre-K class got it, several other children developed it within no time at all.

You know how kids are; they don’t mind to share anything at all. I couldn’t count on all of our fingers and toes the numbers of times I’ve caught her covertly sipping my coffee or water. (Yes, the child loves coffee and will plot to get her hands on it.)

Anyway, when I found out that this was a problem in her class, I made sure that she and I went over all of the basic ‘don’t get sick’ rules.

I told her to never drink or eat behind anyone else in her class. I also made sure that she knew to wash her hands regularly (thank goodness her teachers were known for this) and to make sure not to pick up anyone else’s dirty tissues and the like.

I also told her to keep her dirty tissues picked and thrown out for herself.

Luckily, we escaped the Pre-K tonsillitis epidemic!

By JessiC — On Aug 15, 2011

@rugbygirl – That is very true, but you can get a yeast infection in more than one place. I found this out the hard way.

I did indeed have tonsillitis, and was given erythromycin to help it get out of my system since I have negative penicillin side effects. Regardless, my mouth became very red and sore shortly thereafter.

I thought the antibiotic wasn’t working properly, and that perhaps the infection had moved on up into my mouth. It was extremely painful and sensitive. I couldn’t eat anything at all, even though my throat seemed to be feeling better.

I went to the doctor, and come to find out I had a yeast infection in my mouth! Very uncomfortable, if I say so myself.

The doctor who treated me told me that you can get a yeast infection in any of the dark and wet places of your body; the vagina, the mouth, the nose – even the anus.

So, if you’re ever on a strong antibiotic and get itchy and sore somewhere you’d rather not be, you probably need to go to the doc for a yeast infection pill.

By shell4life — On Aug 14, 2011

@cloudel - I had problems with amoxicillin, too. I did not become nauseated, but I developed a red rash all over my body. I knew this was not normal, and it was listed under the side effects I should contact my doctor about, so I went back to him to get something else.

The rash had developed on my second day of taking the antibiotic. Sadly, it had not offered me any relief from my swollen throat. So, my doctor gave me a prescription for cephalexin.

This drug was much gentler on my system. I did not experience any of the side effects, and I started feeling better the next morning. Now, I always ask my doctor if I can take cephalexin when he tells me I will need an antibiotic for my condition.

By cloudel — On Aug 14, 2011

Though I’ve never had a problem with the amoxicillin antibiotic, my mother is irritated by it. She has taken it on more than one occasion, and every time, it has made her very nauseated.

She gets a bitter taste in her mouth after taking the first pill, and it makes everything taste bad. She can’t even drink water without the bitterness invading it.

Her stomach starts to churn. She can feel it moving around, and though she has what feels like hunger pangs, she can’t eat because of the nausea. She now tells her doctor that she can’t take amoxicillin.

By OeKc05 — On Aug 13, 2011

When my husband developed a fever and an extremely sore throat, he went to his doctor, who diagnosed him with strep. He received a prescription for cephalexin, along with an antihistamine to help with the congestion and nasal drainage that irritated his throat further.

At first, the cephalexin appeared to be working. He got better in a few days. However, as time went on, the strep must have started resisting the drug, because his throat started to become sore again.

He went back to his doctor. This time, he received amoxicillin and a dose pack of steroids. Within a few days, his symptoms went away and did not return.

By orangey03 — On Aug 12, 2011

I developed a severe case of strep throat quickly. One morning, I hardly noticed that my throat was becoming sore, but by that afternoon, I could barely swallow. By nightfall, I had a fever of 100 degrees.

I went to a nurse practitioner the next day, and he prescribed ten days worth of penicillin and five days worth of a steroid. The steroid made me feel better by the next day, but after the five days were up, my sore throat returned. Even though I was still taking the penicillin, I developed a cough and sore lymph nodes.

I went to a different nurse practitioner, and she prescribed a broad spectrum antibiotic called bactrim. I had to take it for ten days also, and it actually worked.

By rugbygirl — On Aug 11, 2011

Women who need to go on antibiotics will want to take precautions against a yeast infection. The antibiotics destroy the body's natural balance "down there." Just one side effect of antibiotics for tonsillitis or anything else.

Talk to your doctor. Loading up on probiotics like yogurt might be enough, or if you have a history of getting yeast infections after antibiotics, s/he might prescribe an oral yeast medicine like fluconazole to prevent infection. (I would try probiotics first. Yeast medicine will also mess with your body's natural "flora." Yes, they call it that!)

By MissMuffet — On Aug 10, 2011

It sounds odd to say I'd consider yourself lucky to get bacterial tonsillitis. However, with that diagnosis you do at least have the chance to get antibiotics, and can be optimistic about your recovery time.

I tend to suffer sore throats every time I get the flu, and then spend a miserable week gargling with salt water and taking pain killers.

By Valencia — On Aug 10, 2011

I've suffered from sore throats all of my life. Whenever I get sick you can guarantee it will start and end there. As soon as I get the first hint of tonsillitis symptoms, which for me is a fever, pain when swallowing and bad breath, I head for the doctor.

I'm not really happy about taking antibiotics for minor illnesses, as I don't want become resistant to them. But when this strikes I am glad they're available.

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