Are Strepsils safe in pregnancy?
You may have heard it's not safe to suck Strepsils if you get a sore throat when you're pregnant. But is it? We get expert advice from Dr Philippa Kaye...
In a nutshell
Strepsils are not generally thought to be harmful to take when you're pregnant but, as there have been no specific, large-scale studies into the safety of Strepsils in pregnancy, you may prefer to treat a sore throat by gargling with salty water, sucking an ice cube or drinking hot lemon and honey.
So what's the latest science on this?
Strepsils are likely to be safe in pregnancy but their safety hasn't been fully studied specifically in pregnant women.
So if you have a sore throat and want to take a sore-throat lozenge, you may wish to talk to your pharmacist and tell them that you are pregnant before taking them – just to check.
The main things to avoid in throat sweets – or any other medicine when you've got a cold and are pregnant – are the decongestants ephedrine or psuedoephedrine. It is important to check any medications, even those bought over the counter, are safe in pregnancy, so ask your pharmacist.
What's in Strepsils?
Most Strepsils packs (including Strepsils Honey & Lemon, Strepsils Original, Strepsils Sugar-Free, Strepsils Orange, Strepsils with Vitamin C, Strepsils Cool and Strepsils Warm) contain 2 active ingredients – amylmetacresol and dichlorobenzyl alcohol – both of which are mild antiseptics that can kill the bacteria associated with mouth and throat infections.
Strepsils Extra Triple Action (all flavours) contains hexylresorcinol, an antiseptic that also has local anaesthetic effects (numbing the pain of a sore throat).
So are these ingredients safe in pregnancy?
None of the ingredients are expected to be harmful to an unborn baby – although, as I've said, no specific trials have been done with pregnant women.
It's worth mentioning, however, that there was a small Israeli pilot study published in the Clinical Drug Investigation journal in 20021 that followed 54 pregnant women who used Strepsils (or a similar brand called Kalgaron) in their 1st trimester of pregnancy – and found their babies had no increased risk of 'malformations' at birth or decreased birthweight than the babies of another 54 women in a control group.
Strepsils themselves have addressed the question of safety and pregnancy, stating, "No adverse events associated with taking Strepsils basic range of products (amylmetacresol/dchlorobenzyl alcohol) have been reported during either pregnancy and lactation. The safety of Strepsils basic range of products in pregnancy and lactation has not been established but is not expected to constitute a hazard during these periods."
What if my pharmacist says not to have them? Is there an alternative?
Yes, you may well find that this happens to you. Pharmacists may well not be willing to say that anything is safe in pregnancy that hasn't been through large-scale testing.
A good and safe alternative is drinking hot lemon and honey. Paracetamol (read more on paracetamol safety in pregnancy) can also be helpful for a sore throat. Keep well hydrated, and if you don’t improve, or have concerns please seek medical advice.
Not all throat lozenges contain the ingredients listed above so, as always, please check with your pharmacist before taking.
Is there a safe herbal alternative?
That depends on what kind of herbal alternative you're thinking of and what ingredients it contains: some herbs are not safe to use in pregnancy.
If you're thinking of taking a herbal sore throat treatment, please check with your pharmacist first.
¹ Sore throat treatment during pregnancy. Berkovitch, M et al. Clin. Drug Investig (2002) 22: 135
About our expert Dr Philippa Kaye
Dr Philippa Kaye works as a GP in both NHS and private practice. She attended Downing College, Cambridge, then took medical studies at Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’s medical schools in London, training in paediatrics, gynaecology, care of the elderly, acute medicine, psychiatry and general practice. Dr Philippa has also written a number of books, including ones on child health, diabetes in childhood and adolescence. She is a mum of 3.
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