Are there home remedies for strep throat?
That depends on what you mean. There are many ways to decrease the symptoms of strep throat, but none to cure it.
Strep throat is a specific type of sore throat caused by the Group A Streptococcus. Some patients become very ill with this infection, whereas others have no sore throat at all. A young child with a fever, stomachache, and a fine sandpapery rash on the abdomen may have strep throat but not even complain of a sore throat. Usually a patient will have red, swollen tonsils and tender swollen glands. Sometimes strep throat causes white spots on the tonsils or tiny red spots on the roof of the mouth.
Why should a person see a doctor for strep throat? The danger of Group A strep throat is the risk of rheumatic heart disease, which sometimes damages the heart valves. Once damaged, the heart valves may become a lifelong problem. Damaged heart valves can cause trouble breathing, leg swelling, and sometimes even wheezing.
If you have the symptoms of strep throat listed above, you should see your doctor. If your symptoms are milder, especially if your sore throat just seems to be a part of a cold, you can treat yourself safely at home.
Often patients forget that sore throats can be treated with pain medication. Acetaminophen, naproxen, and ibuprofen may decrease the discomfort considerably. Aspirin will, too, but should not be used in children under the age of 18 due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome.
Avoiding food with sharp edges, such as potato chips, is a good idea. Soft foods, like ice cream and mashed potatoes, are easier to swallow. Acid foods such as orange juice or lemonade may irritate the throat, as may spicy foods. Cold drinks are soothing for many patients, as are warm liquids such as chicken soup or hot tea.
Gargling with warm salt water may decrease the swelling and pain, but in some people (like me) this causes gagging. Warm tea tastes better and may work equally well.
Lozenges that numb the throat provide relief from superficial irritation, but often the pain is in the deeper tissues or in the glands in the neck. This deep pain responds better to the pain medications listed above.
My favorite treatment is a hot bath and a warm bed. Sleep and sufficient rest allow the body to heal.
Since strep throat is contagious for 24 hours after starting an antibiotic, and since colds are contagious as well, do yourself and your co-workers a favor and stay home a day or two.