Plenty of people suffer through strep throat every year, including children and adults of all ages, although the ailment is most common among children and teens (likely because of the highly contagious nature of the illness). If you've never contracted strep throat before, chances are good you'll know when you have it.
Whereas a common cough, cold, or flu may cause a sore throat, the symptoms of strep throat are far more severe. This contagious illness is caused by streptococcal bacteria, which populates in the throat and tonsils, leading to painful swelling and inflammation that worsens if not treated. One of the best ways to tell if you have strep throat (versus a viral sore throat) is a fever, which tends to accompany bacterial infections.
Another common symptom is painful swallowing, and those with strep throat may also start to see white spots on the tonsils. It's also fairly normal to have accompanying symptoms like swollen or tender lymph nodes in the neck, body aches, loss of appetite, and even headache and nausea. Because swallowing can be so painful with strep throat, many patients also become dehydrated (potentially leading to more serious problems).
The point is, when you contract strep throat you probably want to get rid of it quickly. It's definitely no fun and when left untreated, it can devolve into a serious health situation. Unfortunately, a trip to the doctor will almost certainly result in a prescription of antibiotics, which many people these days are trying to avoid thanks to the superbugs resulting from the overuse of antibiotics in the past.
Using antibiotics could prevent your body from building up immunity to attacking pathogens, meaning you're much more likely to contract the illness again. The good news is there are plenty of natural home remedies you can employ immediately to treat your symptoms. Here are a few to try.
Apple Cider Vinegar
There is almost no end to the uses for this versatile substance in the home. In addition to adding it to your salad dressing, you can use it as part of a cleaning solution for countertops and other surfaces. It can also treat a variety of ailments, from heartburn to diabetes (in conjunction with other efforts), as well as strep throat.
How does it work? I'm not going to lie. Swallowing a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar when your throat is on fire is going to be a little uncomfortable, so it's best to dilute it in a glass of warm water (2 Tbsp. per 8 oz. of water should suffice).
That said, there are a couple of good reasons to muscle through. Apple cider vinegar not only has antibacterial properties that help to kill the infection, but it also offers probiotic inulin to boost white blood cells and bolster your immune system, helping your body to fight infection from the inside out.
When you're dealing with swollen tonsils and painful swallowing, it's not surprising that the thought of applying pepper to the area horrifies you. However, cayenne pepper is known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, both of which can help to lessen the symptoms of strep throat. You can take it by stirring ¼ tsp. of cayenne pepper into 8 oz. of warm water.
Hot Tea with Honey
In truth, the tea is mainly a conduit for the honey. Hot water would work just as well if you're not a tea lover. For those who are a little squeamish about using cayenne pepper right off the bat, though, hot tea with honey is a familiar starting point when it comes to dealing with a sore throat.
The reason this concoction helps to soothe your throat is twofold. First, the hot liquid washes away some of the bacteria. More importantly, though, honey has antibacterial properties, killing off the bacteria it touches.
You could, of course, try to apply honey directly to affected areas with a cotton swab, but this might be painful and cause gagging, and it may not necessarily be more effective. Because dehydration is also a serious concern with strep throat, tea (or hot water) loaded with honey does double duty.
When you're feeling a little braver, try the following combination: 8 oz. hot water, 2 tsp. honey, and ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper. This remedy should have you feeling better in no time when taken several times throughout the day. If you're treating children, make sure to speak with your healthcare provider before administering these ingredients.