Your doctor just diagnosed you with strep throat, and your weekend plans have now been sidelined. As the sun sets on Friday night, you open your fridge for dinner and spot that unopened beer or wine you've been saving for the weekend. You wonder, can I drink alcohol with this throat infection?
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Mixing Strep Throat and Alcohol
Although drinking alcohol with strep throat may be OK in moderation, it's not ideal because it can lead to dehydration, says Bryan Combs, PhD, CRNP, an assistant professor of nursing and associate scientist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. According to Combs, dehydration can be common with illnesses like strep throat.
"Staying hydrated is important because we tend to not drink fluids as often when we are sick," Combs explains. "Drinking a little bit of alcohol may not necessarily be bad, but combining strep throat and alcohol in larger amounts can often dehydrate you, which could lead to additional problems."
If dehydration worsens, it can lead to urinary and kidney problems, seizures and other serious issues, according to the Mayo Clinic. Because of this, it's important to stay hydrated if you have an illness like strep throat and to know what signs to look for to avoid becoming dehydrated.
Thirst is not always the most reliable sign that you need fluids because most people don't feel thirsty until they are already dehydrated, the Mayo Clinic notes. It's something you need to stay ahead of when you are sick.
Key symptoms of dehydration include a dry mouth and tongue, less frequent urination, dark-colored urine, fatigue, dizziness and confusion, among others, says Mayo Clinic. To avoid experiencing these symptoms, it's probably best to say no to alcohol for now while you have strep throat.
Alcohol and Antibiotics: Another Mismatch
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who have strep throat are often prescribed antibiotics like penicillin or amoxicillin to help abate the infection. Many antibiotics have warning labels that advise against drinking alcohol while using the antibiotic, says Combs.
Although alcohol likely won't make the antibiotic less effective, it could make the side effects of the antibiotic more pronounced, he says. "Taking an antibiotic with alcohol is going to make you more prone to side effects like nausea, vomiting, flush, headache, stomach cramps and other stomach problems," Combs explains.
Drinking while having strep throat can become problematic if the ingredients in the antibiotics or other medications you're taking are broken down in the liver, according to Combs. Because alcohol is also filtered out of the body by the liver, he says that combining the two can put a strain on your liver.
For this reason, it's also important that people with liver issues in particular avoid drinking alcohol while taking an antibiotic, Combs adds.
Try These Beverages Instead
Staying hydrated and keeping the throat moist are essential in helping lessen the pain and inflammation in the throat caused by the strep infection, says Combs. Because alcohol is dehydrating, it can cause more irritation in the throat, he explains.
So, instead of reaching for that beer or wine in your fridge, consider drinking water, tea with honey or skim milk. All of these options, advises Combs, can help hydrate the body and soothe throat pain and irritation.
Gatorade and Pedialyte are also especially good options for anyone with strep throat, Combs notes. "Typically, people who have strep throat are not eating as much, so getting enough calories and electrolytes is very important," he says.
He adds that he often advises his patients to alternate between drinking one bottle of water and one bottle of Gatorade or Pedialyte throughout the day to stay hydrated while they're sick.
Once you're feeling better and your strep throat is all cleared, it's OK to drink alcohol. But until then, it's best to skip that night out on the town, stay home and stick to drinking other, more hydrating options, Combs recommends.
If you choose to drink, do so in moderation, says the CDC — no more than one drink per day for women and two for men. An if you have any additional questions about strep throat and alcohol, be sure to reach out to your doctor.
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