Are there home remedies for strep throat?

That depends on what you want to say. There are many ways to lessen the symptoms of strep throat, but none to cure it.

Strep throat is a specific type of sore throat caused by group A strep. Some patients become seriously ill with this infection, while others do not have a sore throat. A young child with a fever, stomach ache, and a sandpaper-fine rash on the abdomen may have strep throat, but does not even complain of a sore throat. Usually a patient will have red and swollen tonsils and tender swollen glands. Sometimes strep throat causes white patches on the tonsils or small red patches 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, heart valves can become a lifelong problem. Damaged heart valves can cause shortness of breath, leg swelling, and sometimes even wheezing.

If you have the strep throat symptoms listed above, you should see your doctor. If your symptoms are milder, especially if your sore throat seems to be part of a cold, it can be safely treated at home.

Often times, patients forget that sore throats can be treated with pain relievers. Acetaminophen, naproxen, and ibuprofen can greatly reduce discomfort. Aspirin too, but it shouldn’t be used in children under the age of 18 due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome.

Avoiding foods with sharp edges, like French fries, is a good idea. Soft foods, like ice cream and mashed potatoes, are easier to swallow. Acidic foods like orange juice or lemonade can irritate the throat, as can spicy foods. Cold drinks are soothing to many patients, as are hot liquids such as chicken soup or hot tea.

Gargling with warm salt water can decrease swelling and pain, but in some people (like me) this causes nausea. Hot tea tastes better and can work just as well.

Throat numbing lozenges relieve superficial irritation, but the pain is often found in the deeper tissues or glands of the neck. This deep pain responds best to the pain relievers listed above.

My favorite treatment is a hot bath and a warm bed. Sufficient sleep and rest allow the body to recover.

Since strep throat is contagious for 24 hours after starting an antibiotic, and since colds are contagious, do yourself and your coworkers a favor and stay home for a day or two.

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