Remedies for Strep Throat

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on November 30, 2022
3 min read

Strep is an infection that attacks your throat and tonsils. Strep refers to "group A streptococcus." It's named after the type of bacteria that causes the disease. 

This condition is most common in children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 15, but strep can affect anyone. It spreads when you share fluids with someone who has it, like by drinking from the same glass or sharing utensils. Adults who work with kids or have children are more likely to contract it. If you’re not sure if you have strep throat, visit your doctor for a throat culture test. That's the only way to know for sure.

Strep comes on fast. You may go to bed feeling fine and wake up sick. Strep throat symptoms include:

  • A sore, itchy throat
  • White spots that appear on your tonsils
  • Fever
  • Pain when you swallow
  • Swollen glands 
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain or loss of appetite

Once you're diagnosed, your doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics to destroy the bacteria that caused the infection. That usually takes 24 to 48 hours. In the meantime, these home remedies for strep throat can alleviate your symptoms: 

Rest and Sleep

When you're sick, your body needs rest and sleep to fight the infection. Stay home from work, or if your child is sick, keep them home from school. Strep is easily spread and remains contagious until you've taken an antibiotic for 24 hours and no longer have a fever. 

Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water and clear fluids to keep your body hydrated. Keep the throat moist to alleviate pain when swallowing. 

Eat Soft and Soothing Food

Soup, applesauce, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, yogurt, or a smoothie are good options. The list is endless, as long as the food is soft and easy to swallow. Cold foods like ice cream or popsicles help soothe your sore throat. Stay away from spicy foods or acidic fruits like oranges. 

Turn on a Humidifier

Breathing moist air can relieve discomfort. Cool-mist humidifiers are best, but be sure to clean them daily to prevent mold and bacteria from building up. A nasal saline spray helps too. 

Gargle With Salt Water

Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt into eight ounces of warm water. Take a sip, lift your head back, and gargle the mixture in your throat to relieve pain. Remind your kids to spit out the water instead of swallowing it. 

Avoid Irritants

Cigarettes, heavy perfumes, and cleaning products can further aggravate your throat and could even make the infection worse. Make sure the air in your home or bedroom is clean. 

Prescription Medications

Strep throat is treated with a course of antibiotics. Your doctor will prescribe penicillin or amoxicillin. If you're allergic to penicillin, other antibiotics will treat strep. 

A course of antibiotics will help decrease your symptoms and the amount of time you're sick. Medication wipes out the bad bacteria that caused the infection so you don't spread it to others and prevent certain complications, like rheumatic fever

If your child develops a fever and a sore throat, it might be strep. Until you know for sure, follow these steps to avoid spreading the infection: 

  • Wash hands
  • Try warm salt water gargles 
  • Stay home from social activities
  • Rest 
  • Drink fluids to keep the throat moist 
  • Take an over-the-counter (OTC) painkiller, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. 

An over-the-counter (OTC) painkiller can alleviate symptoms and reduce your child's fever. Try a medication designed specifically for children, or check the bottle to determine the correct dosage. 

If you suspect strep throat, call a doctor immediately. Strep is contagious until you've been on antibiotics for 24 to 48 hours. This means you should stay home from work, school, and daycare. 

Your doctor will perform one or two tests to diagnose strep. The first is called a rapid antigen test, and it can detect strep bacteria within minutes. If that test is negative, he or she might perform a throat culture. This involves swabbing the throat, then sending it out to a lab to detect bacteria. 

Strep can be dangerous if left untreated, so call your doctor right away. If strep bacteria spreads to other areas of the body, it can cause complications, including: