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Antibiotics for Strep A infection

The recent increase in cases of Strep A infection has meant that more children than usual are being prescribed antibiotics. But this has meant that patients in some areas of the UK have had difficulties getting the antibiotics they have been prescribed.

December 15, 2022

Is there a shortage of antibiotics?

  • The UK is currently experiencing an increase in cases of Strep A infection. For more information on this, see our previous news article here.
  • Prompt treatment of scarlet fever with antibiotics is recommended to reduce the risk of more serious infection, and to help prevent the spread.
  • This has led to more people being prescribed antibiotics than usual and in some areas of the country, patients are having difficulties in getting their prescribed antibiotics.
  • This is because of problems with stock control and distribution of antibiotics across the UK following the increase in demand.
  • There is no shortage of antibiotics in the UK and the NHS is working hard to improve the distribution so that all pharmacies have enough antibiotics.
  • In the meantime, if your child is prescribed antibiotics for Strep A infection, they may be given tablets or capsules, rather than liquid medicine.

Learning to swallow tablets

Learning how to swallow tablets or capsules is an important life skill for children to master. Tablets have numerous advantages compared to liquid medicines for the child or young person:

    1. Tables and capsules contain less sugar and do not have the bad taste of some liquid medicines.
    2. Children who swallow tablets tend to have better adherence to their medication regimens.
    3. Tablets have a longer shelf-life than liquid medicines and do not require a fridge for storage.
    4. Tablets are easier to transport and are more readily available in local pharmacies.

Advice on how to swallow tablets

  • The Medicines for Children website provides advice and ideas to help your child learn how to swallow tablets or capsules, available here.
  • The KidzMed programme, set up by the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle, have produced a short comic for children illustrating an easy six-step pill-swallowing technique, available here. It is also available in multiple languages on their website.
  • If your child struggles to swallow antibiotic tablets, you can dissolve the tablet into a small amount of water, or crush the tablet and mix it with a small amount of soft food.
  • If the antibiotic is in a capsule, you can open it up and mix the contents with a small amount of food or liquid. Instructions for how to do this is described below.
  • With any of these methods, it is important that your child takes the whole dose of the tablets or capsules straight away. You cannot do this preparation in advance.

General information about antibiotics is available on the Medicines for Children website here.  Information about the different antibiotics used to treat Strep A infections can also be found on the website.

The NHS has recently published new information for parents about Strep A infections, which can be found here.


How to dissolve an antibiotic tabletPicture of tablets

  • You will need an oral syringe, which you can get from your pharmacy.
  • Take the plunger out of the syringe. Put the tablet inside the syringe barrel and replace the plunger. (You may need to break the tablet up to fit it in the syringe.) Draw up approximately 3 mL of water and a small amount of air into the syringe.
  • Shake well and allow the tablet to break down into the liquid. This may take up to 10 minutes.
  • Alternatively, you can put your thumb over the tip of the syringe and pull the plunger. The plunger will ping back in but the action of doing this will help break up the tablet. Repeat this a few times until the tablet is broken down.
  • Whichever method you use, give the whole amount to your child straight away. Draw up another 5–10 mL water into the syringe and shake the syringe. Give this mixture to your child too, to make sure they get the whole dose.
  • Instead of using a syringe, you can measure 5–10 mL water into small glass or beaker. Add the tablet and stir well until the tablet has broken down to make a cloudy mixture. Your child should have the whole amount straightaway.
  • The mixture will have a bitter taste, so give your child something strong tasting that they like immediately afterwards.

Crushing tablets

  • You can buy a tablet crusher from your pharmacist for £3–5.
  • Alternatively, put the tablet on a spoon and press another spoon onto it, being careful to capture all the pieces into a small pot.
  • Please see the following clip showing how to crush a tablet using two spoons: watch our video clip here on YouTube
  • Mix the crushed tablets with a small amount of soft food or fruit cordial (squash) to hide the taste. Give your child the whole amount straight away.

Opening capsulesPicture of a capsule

  • Open the capsule by turning each half in opposite directions.
  • Alternatively, hold the capsule upright and tap it on a hard surface so that the contents drop into the bottom half. Carefully cut off the top of the capsule with scissors.
  • Mix the contents of the capsule with a small amount of soft food (e.g. yogurt or jam) or cordial (fruit squash) to hide the taste. Give your child the whole amount straight away.
  • Throw the capsule casing away.