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.
The expert view
“Strepsils are likely to be safe in pregnancy,” says our expert GP Dr Philppa Kaye. “However, their safety hasn’t been fully studied specifically in pregnant women, so 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 medicines when you’ve got a cold and are pregnant are the decongestants ephedrine or psuedoephedrine.”
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).
None of these ingredients are expected to be harmful to an unborn baby – although, as we’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.
If Strepsils aren’t thought to be harmful, why does my pharmacist say not to have them?
Yes, you may well find that this happens to you. As indeed it did to neenawneenaw who posts on our MadeForMums Chat forum.
“I have a stinking cold and have been having Strepsils” she posted. “I just sent my other half down to the pharmacist to see what else I can have and they said nothing’s safe apart from a salt water nasal spray… so I’m really worried now.”
The reason why pharmacists aren’t keen to recommend Strepsils in pregnancy is because, as neenawneenaw found out, “pharmacists aren’t willing to say that anything is safe that hasn’t been through large-scale testing”.
If I’m worried about taking Strepsils, can I use a herbal alternative?
That depends on what kind of herbal alternative you’re thinking of, says Dr Philippa. “It depends on the ingredients,” she says, “as some herbs are not safe to use in pregnancy.
“As with any medication, please check with your pharmacist.”
A good – and definitely – safe alternative, says Dr Philippa, is drinking hot lemon and honey.
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.
¹ Sore throat treatment during pregnancy. Berkovitch, M et al. Clin. Drug Investig (2002) 22: 135