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Strepsils are available in most supermarkets, drug stores and convenience stores as a gentle way to alleviate a sore throat. Most people have at least tried one at some point in their life whilst battling against a cold. However, Strepsils aren’t just flavoured sweets – they are medicinal sweets and do contain antiseptics 2,4-Dichlorobenzyl alcohol and Amylmetacresol and are not recommended for children below 6.
Strepsils are called strepsils because the most common bacteria causing sore throats – streptococcus bacteria. I could not find the meaning of the word sils anywhere, it may be an acronym or simply a branded term with no meaning.
Unlike antihistamines which are difficult to get while pregnant, you don’t need to see a pharmacist to get a hold of a box of them. The only deterrent is the wording on the back of the Strepsils box which states “If you are pregnant….contact your Doctor before taking this product”. This doesn’t mean they’re generally unsafe to take while pregnant but it does mean that it could be unsafe to some people.
It is also a term pharmaceutical companies use to protect themselves.
What’s in Strepsils?
Strepsils.co.uk states 2,4-dichlorobenzyl alcohol and 1.2mg amylmetacresol as the main two ingredients but no context other than the word antiseptic.
The Wikipedia article summarises that ingredient as a mild antiseptic that is commonly used in throat lozenges such as Cofsils, Strepsils, Lorsept, and Gorpils to kill bacteria and viruses associated with mouth and throat infections. It is also used in some European products like Neo Borocillina. It has been found to deactivate some respiratory viruses like respiratory syncytial virus and SARS-Cov but not others like adenovirus or rhinovirus. It is also used in some toothpaste to maintain antimicrobial activity for a short period after brushing.
There have been limited studies on the use of 2,4-dichlorobenzyl alcohol during pregnancy. However, it is generally considered safe for use during pregnancy as it is used at low doses in products such as throat lozenges and toothpaste. However, as with any medication or over-the-counter product, it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional before taking any medication during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester.
Amylmetacresol (AMC) is an antimicrobial agent found in some oral hygiene and sore throat products, such as lozenges, mouthwashes and toothpastes. It is a type of phenol derivative, which means it is related to a group of compounds that have antiseptic properties. AMC works by inhibiting the growth of bacteria and viruses, which can help to reduce the symptoms of sore throat and other oral infections.
Are Strepsils safe to take while pregnant?
Until there have been several mass trials conducted with pregnant women and the use of Strepsils no medical professional would risk their career by declaring them as safe, because they would open themselves up for criticism and lawsuits if something was to happen to a mother and/or baby after following their guidance.
However, MIMS have stated some adverse reactions.
The content is discussing the potential side effects of taking a product containing amylmetacresol and 2,4-dichlorobenzyl alcohol. These side effects can include:
- Hypersensitivity reactions, which can manifest as digestive problems such as nausea or stomach discomfort.
- Tongue soreness, which can be caused by the product.
These side effects are rare and occur in a small number of people. In case of an overdose, it is recommended to seek medical attention, and management should be symptomatic. In severe cases, it may be necessary to empty the stomach contents through a procedure called gastric lavage. Saline laxatives and activated charcoal may also be administered orally to help with the overdose.
A pilot study was conducted, with favourable results but a large enough study to be conclusive. Studies involving pregnant women are notoriously difficult as mothers are often unwilling to put themselves and their child deliberately at risk and for good reason.
The two problematic ingredients ar 2,4-Dichlorobenzyl alcohol and Amylmetacresol, which are there as an antiseptic for the sore throat. They’re designed to kill the bacteria which can infect the raw skin of the mouth and throat. They’re very mild hence why they as so easily purchasable and the quantities are so minute that they are unlikely but not impossible to harm the mum and baby.
They are strong enough to not be recommended for under 6s and have a maximum dosage of 12 a day for adults. Therefore, if you’re adamant on using Strepsils then don’t go over 6 a day. The Best For Parents recommendation is to not use Strepsils at all and opt for a natural alternative.
What can I use instead of strepsils while pregnant?
Honey and Lemon
The trick is to use the flavour of Strepsils instead, which is honey and lemon. Boil the kettle and squeeze some honey and the juices of half a lemon into a cup and drink like a tea. The hot water and lemon can keep the bacteria at bay whilst the honey can soothe the sore area. It’s tasty , easy to make and you can make as many as you’d like. It also comes in handy as a replacement for a tea or coffee as you are probably on a caffeine strike as well!
If you’re thinking yuk! then you’re not far wrong. Salty water (not ocean water) can kill the bacteria in the sore area which will help your throat heal and get better. However, saltwater doesn’t go very far in terms of soothing nor is it a tasty beverage but it does work.
Paracetamol on its own or in conjunction with the above is safe to use within limits. This can help take the pain away whilst the honey and lemon/saltwater helps to deal with the soreness and possible infection.
When to see a Doctor
Some sore throats can lead to a throat infection which even Strepsils won’t help much with. If your throat doesn’t seem to be getting better (and getting worse) while you’re pregnant then you should visit your doctor as soon as possible who will be able to prescribe pregnancy-safe medicine to help clear it up. Never try and self-medicate while pregnant!