Approximately three-quarters of adults who visit a primary
care physician because of a sore throat are given an antibiotic,
according to a recent study. Antibiotics can be effective
at killing certain bacteria.
Almost all sore throats are caused by viruses, however, which
are untreatable with antibiotics. The most common bacterial
cause of sore throats is a germ present in only five to 17%
of adults annually.
The authors of a study in the Journal of the American
Medical Association examined data from over 2,200 sore-throat
patient visits in the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey
(NAMCS) from 1989 to 1999. They calculated rates of prescriptions
for patients with sore throats, as well as the different antibiotics
prescribed by physicians. The results showed that when antibiotics
were prescribed, they were frequently unnecessary, and often
the wrong ones. The recommended antibiotics were only prescribed
in one-quarter of all visits. The use of recommended (correct)
antibiotics also decreased, from 32% of cases in 1989 to 11%
There are two main concerns for the overuse of antibiotics:
unnecessary monetary costs and the development of a bacterial
resistance to antibiotics. The more resistant bacteria become
to antibiotics, the less effective these antibiotics will
be when you truly need them.
The next time you have a sore throat, consider home remedies
like chicken soup, extra vitamin C, and lots of rest and fluids
- instead of antibiotics. For more information on children's
health, visit http://www.chiroweb.com/tyh/childhood.html.
Linder JA, Stafford RS. Antibiotic treatment of adults with
sore throat by community primary care physicians: A national
survey, 1989-1999. Journal of the American Medical Association,
September 12, 2001:286(10), pp. 1181-1186.