The respiratory condition strep throat can be excruciatingly painful and irritating, making it difficult to swallow, eat, and sleep. It's beneficial to start with home treatments for strep throat because antibiotic-resistant bacteria are becoming a serious problem.
Whether the sore throat is of Strep origin or not, there are several categories of home remedies available for anyone with pharyngitis.
The key in dealing with a sore throat is to make sure the person does not get dehydrated first. Eating can wait but drinking water cannot.
The management of sore throat at home can be successful. It is not always necessary to see a health care provider since most sore throats, particularly those that are caused by infections, are viral in origin.
Strep throat is a bacterial infection that will eventually need further treatment such as antibiotics, but these home remedies are effective. Home remedies should be continued even after seeing the doctor.
What is recommended for mild or moderate sore throats that may be Strep?
- Maintain adequate hydration. Naturally, the sore throat hinders swallowing, and it may even be painful. Despite developing a fever and chills, many patients fail to drink liquids. The best liquids include water and those that contain electrolytes or juices for children which will provide needed sugars. One of the worst things to do is to drink alcoholic beverages since these may not only burn while drinking, but they tend to dehydrate instead of hydrate.
Liquid or gel capsule acetaminophen (Tylenol, paracetamol, or N-acetyl-p-aminophenol) This is an analgesic for moderate to severe pain. It is a non-narcotic. It is contraindicated in severe hepatic insufficiency or those with hypersensitivity. Scheduled dosing is much more effective than as needed. In fact, large doses can be as effective as combinations of Tylenol and a narcotic like codeine. It is important to avoid overdosage at all costs.
- Well hydrated child: 15 mg/kg every 6 hours
- Dehydration risk: 10 mg/kg every 6 hours
- Dosing by age (use only for an isolated single dose)
- Use measured weight-based dosing for any subsequent doses!
- Age >2 months (5 kg): 80 mg per dose
- Age >4 months (6.5 kg): 100 mg per dose
- Age >6 months (8 kg): 120 mg per dose
- Age >12 months (10 kg): 160 mg per dose
- Age >2 years (13 kg): 200 mg per dose
- Age >3 years (15 kg): 240 mg per dose
- Age >5 years (19 kg): 280 mg per dose
Maximum in children
- Do not exceed 75 mg/kg/day (up to 4 grams per day)
- Regular Dose: 650 mg orally every 4 to 6 hours prn
- Higher Dose
- Regular Strength Tablet (325 mg) (Take 975 mg (3 tablets) orally every 6 hours)
- Extra-Strength Tablet (500 mg) (Take 1000 mg (2 tablets) orally every 6 hours)
Maximum: 4 grams per day
- Limit to 2 grams per day maximum in advanced liver disease or severe alcohol use
- Do not exceed 12 regular strength tablets (325 mg)
- Do not exceed 8 extra-strength tablets (500 mg)
Liquid or gel capsule Ibuprofen
- Strong analgesic
- Moderate anti-inflammatory
- May be more effective than Tylenol
- Children Dose: 5-10 mg/kg PO every 6 to 8 hours
- Adult Dose: 400 to 800 mg orally three to four times daily
- Adult Maximum: 3200 mg/day
- Avoid in age under 6 months old
- Salt water gargles (1 tsp salt in quart warm water) or warm broth
Diet of smooth, slippery, and wet foods
- Ice cream
- Hard sucking candies (e.g., butterscotch)
Honey (2 tsp) to coat throat
- Avoid in age under 1 year because of risk of botulism
Soothing throat lozenges
- Menthol lozenges (e.g., Vicks)
- Pectin (e.g., Halls Breezers)
Herbal tea containing "Demulcents" (e.g., Throat coat)
- Contains Elm bark, licorice root and marshmallow root
- Offers short-term relief (<30 minutes)
- In children:
What is recommended for more severe Strep throat symptoms at home, including pain with swallowing or odynophagia?
- Oral rinses with salt water
- Trial of oral fluids 20 minutes after taking pain medicines
- Gargling with diphenhydramine (Benadryl) 25 mg gargles, up to 4 times a day
- Maalox swish, gargle, and spit before trying to eat or drink
- Some doctors will prescribe a “magic mouthwash” Most of these can be replicated at home by mixing the Benadryl and Maalox in even amounts. The only other ingredients the doctor may add may be a pain medicine in liquid form called lidocaine like the dentist may use.
What medications should be avoided in those patients at home who may have a Strep throat?
The reason these should be avoided is because of the possibility of rebound pain. That means the pain from the Strep throat may actually worsen when the over-the-counter medication wears off.
Another medicine that is controversial in Strep throat treatment are systemic steroids. Of course, this would be discussed with your healthcare provider once care is established.
- Phenol (Chloraseptic)
- Dyclonine (Sucrets)
- Benzocaine (Cepacol)
Final Thoughts and Recommendations
- Home remedies for sore throats (pharyngitis) are effective and should be used even if a healthcare provider sees the patient.
- Home remedies are never a substitute for seeing a healthcare provider if the person’s condition is worsening, particularly if they are having severe one-sided throat pain which may indicate quinsy or if they are becoming severely dehydrated or have a sustained high fever.
- Non-narcotic medications such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen can be just as effective as narcotic medications. It is vital that narcotics be avoided without proper medical supervision and advice.
- Rest and recuperation are also important. Isolation of the patient is an innovative and necessary recommendation so that others are protected. Vigorous activity, as some young adults like to do when they get ill, should be avoided.
It is uncommon for sore throats to be caused by bacterial infections. Viruses are responsible for 85 to 95 percent of throat infections in adults and children under the age of five, according to the Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement.
According to studies, using antibiotics to treat strep throat is only marginally effective. They can shorten the duration of the disease by roughly half a day and alleviate symptoms after 3 to 4 days.
Drinking apple cider vinegar is a simple and effective natural remedy for strep throat. Acetic acid, one of the potent therapeutic ingredients in apple cider vinegar, can kill harmful bacteria while promoting the growth of healthy bacteria.
If you have difficulties swallowing, your tonsils are swollen and blocking your throat, or if your fever won't go away, you should visit your doctor. Only infections that an antibiotic can effectively treat should be treated with one; otherwise, bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics may develop.
Throughout the day, make sure to wash your hands, especially if you are around other people. To remove any traces of group A strep, use an antibacterial soap.
Taking antibiotics too soon could harm your health in the long run since the next time you acquire strep throat, it might not respond to the medication. Your best course of action is to first attempt a home remedy, if possible. The natural treatments for strep throat are really efficient. They can easily calm and treat the throat and have no adverse side effects. Don't wait to see a doctor, though, if the symptoms do not go away. Additionally, be sure to check with your doctor to make sure that any medications or treatments you are receiving do not interact with one another or have any negative effects on you.
Brinckmann J, Sigwart H, van Houten Taylor L. Safety and efficacy of a traditional herbal medicine (Throat Coat) in symptomatic temporary relief of pain in patients with acute pharyngitis: a multicenter, prospective, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study. J Altern Complement Med. 2003 Apr;9(2):285-98. doi: 10.1089/10755530360623400. PMID: 12804082.