Are Throat Sprays Effective Against Strep Throat?

An estimated 5-15%¹ of adults with a sore throat have an infection called strep throat. This is caused by a type of bacteria known as Streptococcus and generally results in a sudden and severe sore throat along with other symptoms such as fever.

Strep throat treatment generally includes antibiotics and routine follow-up care after a positive strep test. Additional treatment or management options can include throat sprays. Here is an expert guide on managing the discomfort of strep throat by using a spray to alleviate throat pain.

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Strep throat overview

Strep throat is usually considered a mild infection, but it can be severely painful. Common symptoms include:

  • Fever

  • Pain when swallowing

  • Red and swollen tonsils, which may have visible areas or streaks of white pus

  • Sore throat, which often starts quickly

  • Headache, stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting (these additional symptoms are more common in children)

  • Possible rash, a condition known as scarlet fever

A doctor can perform a quick strep test by swabbing the throat. This test provides results in the doctor’s office within a few minutes and can help determine whether a person has strep throat so that appropriate treatment can be administered. 

Strep throat is generally treated with antibiotics, usually penicillin or amoxicillin. This helps to reduce the risk of serious complications, such as rheumatic fever.

Do sprays help with strep throat?

An over-the-counter (OTC) anesthetic spray can help to relieve the pain caused by strep throat. Throat sprays contain a relatively tiny amount of anesthetic, which soothes the affected areas and numbs the pain. 

The throat spray will not eliminate the strep bacteria, so it’s still important to take antibiotics to treat the infection. However, a throat spray may help to manage symptoms of strep throat.

Throat spray ingredients

One common active ingredient in throat sprays is phenol. This is a local anesthetic that numbs the sprayed area for a period of time. Another common ingredient is benzydamine, an anti-inflammatory drug that helps to reduce pain and swelling. 

Glycerin is also an ingredient in some throat sprays and helps relieve sore throat symptoms. This coats the throat, helping to relieve irritation.

How to use throat spray to help strep throat

Throat sprays come in many different brands and flavors. Here are general directions for use:

  1. For a new bottle, spray three times away from your face to activate the pump

  2. Hold the bottle and the pump securely

  3. Open your mouth slightly, then point the nozzle toward the back of your throat

  4. Hold your breath and press down on the pump to spray the back of your throat

Avoid exceeding the recommended dosage. The typical dosage is one spray for people ages 6-12 and up to three sprays for those ages 13 and above. 

However, it’s important to check the bottle to determine the maximum recommended dosage for your particular throat spray. In general, you shouldn’t use throat sprays for more than two days without checking with your doctor. 

Alternative over-the-counter remedies for strep throat

Doctors usually prescribe penicillin or amoxicillin to combat strep throat. However, if you're allergic to penicillin, alternative antibiotics may be used.

You can supplement antibiotics with over-the-counter and/or home remedies such as:

  • OTC pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), can help reduce your fever and sore throat pain

  • Gargling warm salt water to relieve a scratchy throat

  • Rest to help support your immune system’s function

The Lowdown

Strep throat is generally a mild bacterial infection but can cause significant discomfort in swallowing and speaking. A throat spray is an effective way to manage the pain of strep throat. Throat sprays may contain compounds that numb the throat or anti-inflammatory ingredients that reduce pain and swelling.

It’s important to ensure that you follow the directions on the spray bottle and don’t exceed the recommended dosage. Using throat sprays in excess increases the risks of gut irritation. When used at the correct dosage, throat sprays can help numb strep throat pain.

FAQs

Is sore throat sprays safe?

In general, throat sprays are considered to be safe. However, it’s important to follow the directions for use. Using throat sprays in excess may increase the risk of gut irritation and/or sores.

Is throat spray good for strep throat?

A throat spray containing a local anesthetic can help you manage the pain and inflammation of strep throat. However, throat spray will not get rid of the bacteria that cause strep throat, so you still need antibiotics.

Can I swallow a sore throat spray?

In small doses, sore throat spray is harmless. In excess, it can be dangerous, so make sure that you follow the directions on the package.

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