Natural Prevention & Treatment For Step Throat
How to Prevent and Treat Strep Throat Naturally
If you’ve ever had it, those words alone are enough to make you squirm.
You do a couple of involuntary test swallows just to make sure there’s no discomfort — and breathe a sigh of relief when you don’t feel pain.
Family doctors see a lot of strep. Perhaps as many as 1 in 25 patients has an acute throat infection and needs to know if it’s strep or not. And very often, they’re sent home with a prescription for antibiotics.
Whether it’s strep or not.
The problem with strep throat is that the stabby-stabby feeling at the back of the throat we often think of as strep could, in fact, be any number of things. And most of those conditions are viral in nature, not bacterial. Which means that antibiotics can do nothing to help. They won’t reduce the severity of your symptoms. Nor will they shorten the duration of your illness.
Given the side effects some people get when they take antibiotics, they may actually be doing more harm than good.
What is strep throat?
Strep throat is an infection caused by Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria. You may also hear it called group A streptococcus. If you’ve been infected with strep A, you’ll likely start showing symptoms within five days of the initial exposure.
The big symptom to look out for is a sore throat. It comes on quickly and starts out strong. It will hurt to swallow. Anything. Every time.
The first thing to do when you have a sore throat is to take stock of other symptoms you might have. Do you have any cold-like symptoms? Coughing? Sneezing? If so, there’s a good chance what you have is a cold that comes with a sore throat. Coughing and sneezing are not symptoms of strep and usually indicate your case is viral, not bacterial.
Another tell-tale sign of strep throat is red, swollen tonsils. This may be accompanied by white spots or patches at the back of the throat.
You might also find red spots lining the roof of your mouth going back to your throat. This is called petechiae. Petechiae sometimes cluster together. It might look like you have a rash in your mouth. Your throat may also have a white or yellow coating.
Another common symptom of strep throat is swollen lymph nodes in your neck. This is something you’ve probably heard people call swollen glands. Put your thumb and one finger either side of your windpipe right below the jaw. Tender? That’s swollen nodes.
Strep can come with a fever of 101°F/38.3°C or higher that could last as long as 48 hours. If your case is accompanied by a lower fever, that could be an indication you have a viral infection.
Headaches are also common. So are body aches and joint pain to a lesser degree.
With strep, some patients — especially younger ones — may experience stomach pain that might include nausea and vomiting. But diarrhea is not part of the package. If your sore throat comes packaged with diarrhea, there’s a good chance that’s a virus you’re dealing with, not strep throat.
Make sure you ask your doctor to do a throat swab to test for strep – this is the only way to know for sure if your sore throat is actually strep throat.
Complications of strep throat
It’s not likely that a case of strep throat will get out of hand, but there are two types of complications to be aware of:
There is a chance of a strep infection spreading to your tonsils, sinuses, skin, blood, or middle ear.
Possible inflammatory reactions include:
Scarlet fever is basically a strep infection that’s accompanied by a rash. A prominent rash that can cover much of the body. Scarlet fever was a leading cause of infant mortality in the early 20th century, but now it’s easily treated with a course of antibiotics.
Kidney disease and rheumatic fever are more serious, though. Rheumatic fever can damage your heart, joints, nervous system, or skin.
If you feel your case of strep is leading to complications, you should see an MD as soon as possible.
On a side note, some people are quick to point out that group A streptococcus is the bacteria that are also responsible for necrotizing fasciitis — the flesh-eating disease. While that is indeed an interesting fact, flesh-eating disease is not a complication of strep throat. Strep happens when you inhale airborne bacteria. Necrotizing fasciitis happens when the bacteria enters your body through a break in the skin.
Still, if you ever needed a good reason to cover your mouth when you cough . . .
Antibiotics: yea or nay?
In an article published in Canadian Family Physician, Dr. Pol Morton from Burnaby, BC argues against treating strep throat with the usual course of antibiotics:
Why do we treat sore throats with antibiotics at all? . . . Symptoms caused by a bacterial sore throat fail to clear much faster when treated with antibiotics than they would if left alone . . . It is certainly easier and quicker to hand out prescriptions every time than to explain and reassure. Each time we do this, however, we reinforce patients’ fears.
It’s likely that if you have a sore throat a virus is to blame. This is the case 85–90% of the time. All the amoxicillin or penicillin in the world won’t make a lick of difference.
But what if it is strep?
That’s the thing. Some research suggests that the benefits of taking antibiotics for strep throat are modest at best. You buy yourself maybe 16–24 more hours of relief. Considering you’re committing to a 10-day course of pills in the process, that’s not a lot of bang for your buck.
So, let’s look at some alternative ways to prevent and treat strep throat, and indeed, many viral throat infections as well.
14 natural preventions and treatments for strep throat
If you’re looking for alternative ways to deal with a sore throat, try some of the following methods.
Chicken soup broth
There’s a reason people think homemade chicken broth can help you recover from just about anything. Broths made from bones are loaded with minerals and protein that boost your immune system. But you likely don’t want to spend hours cooking when you’re sick. Instead, make a big batch of broth when you’re healthy and freeze it for a rainy day. In a pinch, you can also buy premade salt-free chicken broth.
Rule number one of a sore throat is don’t do anything to hurt yourself. Don’t eat food that’s going to aggravate things. Reduce your diet to things already soft or easily liquefied in a blender. You want ice cream? You get ice cream. And do your best to avoid spicy food or anything too acidic. That includes orange juice.
Taking regular echinacea supplements boosts your immune system. This helps you fight off infections better. There’s evidence to suggest echinacein — a phytochemical in echinacea — can help stop invasive bacteria and viruses from getting into your cells.
Nature’s little twofer, elderberry is both antibacterial and antiviral. Taking elderberry can protect you against bacterial and viral respiratory infections.
There are many sore throat-fighting essential oils. Among them: peppermint, lemon, and thyme.
Hot fluid helps to reduce throat irritation and discomfort. Tea. Soup. Straight up hot water. It’s all good. Or try boosting your immune system with a herbal tea such as ginseng, chamomile, or dandelion.
Humidifiers and vaporizers can do a lot to help soothe irritated and swollen airways.
Irritants — avoid them
Steer clear of anything that irritates your throat, especially smoke and chemical fumes. If you’re a smoker – reduce the amount you smoke as much as possible – it’s one of the worst irritants when you have strep throat.
Taking a daily dose of raw, unpasteurized honey — rich in antioxidants —boosts your immune system.
Stay home and get as much sleep as you can. It’s the body’s way of healing itself and one of best things you can do when you have strep – plus when you’re sleeping it doesn’t hurt.
Gargling with salt water creates a hostile environment for bacteria in your throat. Some suggest you should track down fancy salt from the Himalayas for this purpose, but any salt will do. Including ordinary table salt. Gargle regularly at the first indication of soreness and you might just stop strep dead in its tracks.
Vitamin C is great at boosting your immune system and repairing damaged tissue. Just avoid drinking it in orange juice-form because of the acidity, while your throat is still sore.
If you suffer from recurring strep infections, it might be due to a vitamin D deficiency.
Conventional wisdom tells us to drink plenty of water whenever we feel ill. This goes doubly so for throat infections. Not only does drinking water help you stay hydrated, it also makes swallowing things — pills, food, etc. — that much easier.
Nipping strep in the bud
If you’re prone to strep, we feel your pain. But sometimes it gets to the point where we assume every sore throat is caused by strep and demand the antibiotics we think we need. And more often than not, the medical establishment plays along to keep us happy.
That said, keep an eye out to make sure the infection in your throat doesn’t spread.
Along with the great tips listed above, you can help protect yourself and others from sore throats in general — and strep throat in particular — by:
And be on the lookout for these symptoms that might suggest your sore throat is a viral infection:
Also, do yourself a favor and always buy two new toothbrushes when you get a sore throat. This is to help prevent reinfecting yourself. Throw out your old contaminated toothbrush as soon as you feel sick. Then as soon as you’re feeling better, ditch the replacement brush as well in favor of the brand new one still in its package.
Perhaps it’s time to start dealing with strep naturally
If you’d like advice about maintaining upper respiratory tract health the naturopathic way, book an appointment with Dr. Tara Andresen, N.D. today.
Explore how you can treat strep and other sore throats causes naturally – with vitamin shots, and any of the other natural treatment options mentioned in this article.