Have you awoken and been unable to swallow? It feels like you have daggers in your throat? You might assume it is strep throat.
However, this is not the only cause of a sore throat, so do not reach for the antibiotics just yet. It could easily be another condition.
What is Strep Throat?
Streptococcus bacteria (strep) is responsible for the infection. Multiple strain exist with A and B being most common. Strep A is the more common of the two. Strep B carries serious complications, especially in newborns, infants, the immune system compromised, and elderly. (1)
Strep lives in your nose and tonsils, so it is highly contagious. You can spread it easily through coughing and sneezing, putting others and yourself at risk.
Symptoms of Strep A
• Sore throat
• Fever of 101 degrees and up
• Presence of Streptococcus in your nose or tonsils
• Patches of white inside of your throat
• Red, tiny spots on the roof of your mouth
Strep B differs from A because it can cause internal infections outside of the throat. It can also present like Strep A in the upper respiratory.
According to the CDC, newborns have the highest rate of contraction, but adults and children can have, transmit, or carry Strep B. (2)
What Happens if You do not Treat Strep A?
Strep can cause secondary issues. The most concerning of the two are rheumatic fever and kidney disease, but these can still occur even if you treat strep with antibiotics quickly.
Antibiotics only lower your chances. You also have to be at a high risk for these conditions, and the majority of healthy adults simple are not. Researchers now question if untreated or treated strep is an actual cause of rheumatic fever or kidney disease. (3, 4)
Children and anyone with a compromised immune system might be better off speaking with their doctor about antibiotics and using natural strep throat remedies to ease symptoms. (5)
A third concern is that an abscess forms on your tonsils, which will require you to seek your doctor and likely a round of antibiotics. A less concerning, rare, and treatable side effect includes scarlet fever.
What Conditions or Symptoms Mean it is not Strep Throat?
• Sore throat with no fever or cold symptoms
• Sore throat with a negative antigen test or culture
• Sore throat caused by pollutants or smoke
• Sore throat caused by other bacterial infections
This could be an increasingly growing list. A sore throat is only one strep symptom.
Your doctor or homeopath really should diagnose strep. They should perform a thorough examination, a rapid antigen test, and if needed, take a culture of your throat. The two tests look for the bacteria responsible for strep. (6)
• Pain relievers
A round of antibiotics is common. However, antibiotic resistance is a growing concern, and the course of treatment is generally not effective in treating strep symptoms.
Over the counter pain reliever meds do help at times. They can also reduce fever if it spikes too high, especially in children and older infants. You can use most pain relievers with natural strep throat remedies too.
Antibiotic Resistance and Strep
One doctor does pose an interesting question. Why are doctors prescribing antibiotics for strep at all? It is unnecessary regardless of positive cultures or tests. (7)
Researchers and medical professionals seem to agree. At least they are trying to bring better diagnostic tools and guidelines to counter the antibiotic resistance epidemic.
From research we gathered, patients tend to be the other part of the antibiotic resistance problem. Doctors are not off the hook, according to a 1992 study where 51% of antibiotic prescriptions were for the common cold.
According to an article in the NY Times, you can be a strep carrier but show no symptoms. Essentially, you could contract a cold or have throat irritation. You visit your doctor and they perform a culture. It comes back positive, but you do not have an active infection.
Have we shifted so far away from natural medicine and letting nature run its course that we have been demanding unnecessary treatments?
At the least, these collective medical opinions provide us with information to consider. Yes, antibiotics can be great, but we obviously do not always need to take them. We should openly discuss our concerns and treatment courses with our medical practitioners. (13)
Do Antibiotics Really Work for Strep?
Yes, if you actually have strep and an active infection. Natural antibiotics could work too, but they might take longer to kick in before you see results. The tradeoff is you have less to worry about with your resistance.
In many cases, you can still use natural remedies for strep throat while you are taking antibiotics. Speak with your doctor and let them know in case of drug interaction.
Natural Strep Throat Remedies
Many of these remedies work well for a sore throat unrelated to strep too, including flu, common cold, allergies, and so forth. Herbal and green teas are a given. We’re going to delve a little deeper and look at remedies that could address your bacterial infection instead.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Tried and true folklore medicines are among our favorites. Apple cider vinegar has a multitude of medicinal uses. Acetic acid makes vinegar, well vinegar. The volatile compound hash benefits that stem beyond food or medicine.
The anti-bacterial properties of apple cider vinegar are what makes it shine as a remedy. You can also safely ingest it, but if your throat is sore, you should dilute it or else it might burn.
Soothing Apple Cider Vinegar Drink
• 8 ounces warm water
• 2 tablespoons organic apple cider vinegar
• Honey and lemon to taste, optional
1. Combine water and apple cider vinegar in a mug. Add honey and lemon if using them.
2. Sip your warm beverage
3. Repeat as needed.
You can also use this recipe as a gargle.
Rinse your mouth with a salt-water solution, mouthwash, or warm water before brushing your teeth. Apple cider vinegar can damage your teeth.
2. Essential Oils
• Oregano essential oil
• Thyme essential oil
• Lavender essential oil
• Peppermint essential oil
• Lemon essential oil
Some essential oils have clinical data proving their effectiveness on bacteria. Do note that you should not ingest any essential oil without your doctor’s guidance.
Essential oils on the market do not always reach the requirements for ingestion, and some are deadly if ingested, so you must apply them topically with a carrier or use an ultrasonic diffuser.
Your go to cold season supplement might be beneficial against the symptoms and spread of strep. Animal studies show promise against symptoms and highlight its anti-inflammatory properties that could ease your sore throat.
For best results take as a tea or in capsule form at the onset of symptoms. You can also consider using Echinacea if you are around someone with strep since it can boost your immune system.
Elderberry is another common cold remedy that might be useful for your strep symptoms. It might prevent the spread or your contraction too if others around you are ill. Elderberries have many beneficial properties, which include anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, and anti-oxidant.
Human studies show promise with syrups and lozenges containing black elderberries. They might ease a sore throat too.
Elderberry also contains anti-depressant qualities, which can give you an overall sense of well-being while you are under the weather.
5. Garlic Extract
Garlic is a natural antibiotic. One particular study from 2011 highlights its use against bacterial infections. This might be an option if you want an antibiotic but not to worry about becoming resistant.
The study used garlic extract, which you can make at home by steeping cloves in extra virgin olive oil.
Some people swear by consuming freshly chopped garlic cloves though. You can safely consume two fresh cloves per day. Are there side effects with fresh garlic? Yes, most notably you will smell like garlic.
If you take blood-thinners, consult with your doctor. Garlic in large quantities might interfere.
Final Thoughts on Strep Throat and Natural Strep Throat Remedies
Strep throat is less common than we realize. There many strains, but two are more common than the others are. A sore throat and inability to swallow are the biggest complaints.
We can be carriers but show no symptoms until a similar illness strikes. This can lead to false positives and unneeded antibiotics.
It’s one of many bacterial infections doctors overprescribe antibiotics for despite the controversy over whether they’re necessary at all for healthy adults and children.
Many natural remedies can bring relief with or without the use of traditional antibiotic or pain reliever treatments. They generally use common household ingredients that you can obtain locally or online, and they have medical studies to back their claims.
From strep diagnosis to complications to symptom management and prevention, we hope you have found this article helpful.