Strep throat¹ is caused by a bacterial infection with group A Streptococcus that affects the throat and tonsils. It is highly contagious, although some people catch it and have no symptoms. You can catch it by breathing in respiratory droplets, sharing a glass or plate or touching a surface contaminated with the bacteria, and then touching your mouth or nose.
Symptoms include sore throat, painful swallowing, fever, red and swollen tonsils, and swollen lymph nodes.
Strep throat is typically not accompanied by a hoarse voice, coughing, or a runny nose. These symptoms indicate that a cold or other viral infection most likely causes your sore throat.
Strep throat is diagnosed by taking a rapid antigen throat swab test in a doctor's office, urgent care, or pharmacy clinic. The only treatment for strep throat is antibiotics.
Antibiotics shorten the course of illness, reduce the chances of transmission, and prevent serious complications that can happen in children, such as rheumatic fever. You should always finish the full course of antibiotics, even if you feel better before completion.
The symptoms of strep throat can remain unpleasant even after you start antibiotics, so it's useful to know what can soothe it, including certain foods that can help your throat recover more quickly.
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While these foods will not cure the strep infection, they may help alleviate your sore throat regardless of the cause.
Mom's remedy really does work. It helps by replenishing your fluids and salt levels. Any broth will do, such as vegetables. If your mother gives you chicken soup, it can also give a placebo effect. You associate it with feeling better, so you do.
Because there's nothing hard or crunchy, it can help you get some protein without irritating your throat or increasing pain when swallowing.
There's a reason honey is used in so many remedies. It really is good for soothing sore throat (not to mention other symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections). Always use good quality honey (supermarket honey often comes from bees fed a lot of supplemental sugar and is generally low quality), with raw honey being the best.
You can stir honey into hot water and add some lemon juice for a superior sore throat remedy.
Sucking on something cool can temporarily relieve inflammation and swelling in the throat, making it hurt less. Choose ice pops (or make your own) made with real fruit, and you will also get vitamin C to support your immune system and help it fight the infection.
If you are having difficulty swallowing, it can be hard to get enough nutrition. One answer is old-fashioned plain macaroni and cheese. It's soft and high in protein, and the thick cheese sauce can also soothe your throat. Another alternative is pasta with cream sauce, such as alfredo sauce.
Apple sauce is another good answer to having difficulty eating, but choose one that lacks cinnamon (spicy foods are not good for you). Incidentally, mac and cheese and applesauce make a surprisingly interesting combination.
If you have a blender, a smoothie is a great way to get in your fruit and vegetable servings without stressing your throat. You can mix up whatever you want easily; smoothies also cool your throat and reduce inflammation.
Yogurt is good for your throat. However, make sure to avoid yogurt that has crunchy pieces or fruit pieces in it. Mixing in some honey is good too. Choosing yogurt with Lactobacillus may also help with the potential gastrointestinal side effects of oral antibiotics, such as diarrhea.
We all know potatoes fill you up. Mash your potatoes and mix them with something soft like butter or melted cheese.
Garlic helps support your immune system and can reduce the severity of infections. You can add some minced garlic to many foods, such as mashed potatoes or chicken soup. There are some indications that garlic may kill bacteria, but this has not yet been fully studied.
The general rule is that you should eat soft food if it hurts to swallow. It's also important to seek out food you like and find palatable. Having a sore throat can affect your appetite.
There are also some foods that you should avoid as they might make your symptoms worse or cause inflammation. These include:
Spicy food and food containing capsaicin, regardless of your normal tolerance. Spicy food can cause inflammation and trigger acid reflux, worsening sore throat symptoms.
Anything very crunchy such as crackers, nuts, etc. These can irritate your throat by being sharp. It's best to stick to softer foods until your throat feels better. Crusty bread and potato chips can also irritate the throat.
Soda pop, which contains acids that can irritate your throat.
Alcohol. Not only can this irritate your throat, but it can interact with over-the-counter painkillers and make you drowsy.
Acidic fruits, such as oranges and other citrus fruits, and tomatoes. Yes, this means you should avoid tomato soup and tomato-based pasta sauces.
If any food makes your sore throat worse, avoid it until you feel better.
The key is avoiding acidic or crunchy foods, which can irritate an already-inflamed throat.
The treatment for strep throat is antibiotics. However, eating the right food can ease your symptoms and help strengthen your immune system to fight off the infection better. You should not try to treat suspected strep, especially in children, with food alone. Instead, you should still seek out foods that soothe your throat and avoid ones that can irritate it.
If you think you or your child has strep, you should call a doctor promptly to get a test and, if necessary, antibiotics.
Strep throat: All you need to know | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention