Posted on Oct 05, 2013

Cold and flu season has started meaning numerous people are going to their physicians with a sore throat. But does expensive antibiotics really help? Do you actually need it?

Reuters reports that only a small percentage of those who are prescribed antibiotics actually need it. Researchers said, “Only about 10 percent of adults with sore throats have strep throat, which is caused by bacteria that could be killed by antibiotics.” A doctor who worked on the study told Reuters, “Almost all other sore throats are caused by viruses. In those cases, an antibiotic is not going to help you and it has a very real chance of hurting you.”

Not only are these antibiotics expensive but they also have side effects. One doctor told Reuters, “Antibiotics can cause diarrhea or yeast infections and interact with other medicines. Overuse of the drugs also makes bacteria resistant to them - which means future infections could be harder to treat.” Another researcher told Reuters that the cases studied show that the number of antibiotics being prescribed has gone up substantially and that more and more doctors are prescribing extremely expensive medicine even though penicillin still works just as well.

Doctors should be properly testing patients before prescribing them antibiotics. One of the doctors who took part in the study told Reuters, “Ideally, doctors should use a few key symptoms to figure out which patients should be tested for strep throat. Patients are more likely to have strep if they have a fever, swollen lymph nodes, white spots on the tonsils or swollen tonsils and no cough. But the test is often used "pretty indiscriminately," or people are given antibiotics without even being tested for strep.” Other doctors told Reuters that people could avoid getting expensive antibiotics by not visiting their physicians when they have normal sore throat cases; for the typical sore throats the over-the-counter medicines should suffice.

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Gerry Oginski
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