Doctors had thought that gum sweetened by xylitol, a sugar substitute, might coat the throat and prevent the spread of strep bugs, said lead researcher Michael Moore of the University of Southampton in England.
But his team found no significant benefit from either in a four-year clinical trial involving almost 700 people suffering from sore throat.
Folks with strep should stick with proven remedies to ease their pain, Moore concluded.
“Simple painkillers taken by mouth or medicated lozenges that are anesthetic and antiseptic can provide some short-term symptom relief,” Moore said.
Only a laboratory test can confirm strep throat, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But antibiotics are frequently overused to treat sore throat. About 70 percent of sore throat patients receive antibiotics, even though these drugs do nothing to treat a viral infection and aren’t effective in soothing strep soreness, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
Concerns about increasing antibiotic resistance led Moore and his team to test these two home remedies.
Clinical trial participants were divided into two groups, one testing the usefulness of gum and the other testing probiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria thought to have health benefits.
Gum chewers were given sticks sweetened with either xylitol (a birch sugar) or sorbitol, or told not to chew gum.
Xylitol has been shown to inhibit bacterial growth and coat the throat wall; the sweetener sorbitol has no such effect, but was included to test whether simply generating more saliva would help soothe the throat.
The probiotic group was provided capsules that contained either actual probiotics or a placebo.
The upshot: Neither xylitol gum nor probiotics provided effective treatment of sore throat symptoms.
“There’s no shortage of remedies put forward for sore throats,” said Dr. Jack Ende, president of the American College of Physicians. “It’s the old axiom that if there are a lot of treatments suggested, no single one actually works.”
Also, look for typical cold symptoms. If you’re sneezing or coughing, you probably don’t have strep throat, he said.
“Wait it out, and do not go to your doctor’s office,” Ende said. “He or she has nothing to offer, and all you’ll do is potentially infect others in the waiting room.”
Your doctor might prescribe antibiotics for your strep throat, but don’t be surprised if you aren’t provided any, Ende and Moore said.
“It gets better on its own. It really does,” Ende said. “Antibiotics shorten the course by a day or two, but that’s all.”
However, the CDC says antibiotics are prescribed for strep to prevent rheumatic fever.
The study was published Dec. 18 in the journal CMAJ.WebMD News from HealthDay
SourcesSOURCES: Michael Moore, MSc, professor, primary health care research, University of Southampton, United Kingdom; Jack Ende, M.D., president, American College of Physicians; Dec. 18, 2017,CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)
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