The next time you get a sore throat, load up on the cough drops, but hold off on the antibiotics. A study recently released shows that individuals who take antibiotics for sore throats do not do any better than those who do not.

A sore throat is one of the most common respiratory complaints leading to doctor visits, but dangerous complications occur, if ever, say the researchers at Southampton University’s Aldermoor Health Center in the U.K. The study set out to compare three medical approaches to dealing with the nasty sore throat: an immediate prescription for 10 days of antibiotics, a prescription for antibiotics if the condition is not improved in 3 days, and no antibiotics at all. The study involved 716 patients 4 years old and older from 11 different medical practices. They suffered from inflamed tonsils or pharynx (back of the throat). The study tracked patients for about a year.

According to a Reuters wire report, no difference in the rate of complications was discovered between the three groups. Researchers concluded that unless a patient had extenuating circumstances, antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary. Doctors should simply explain to patients that a sore throat lasts about 5 days and can cure itself with time.

SOURCE: British Medical Journal (1997; 315:350-353) as reported by Reuters News Service, August 8, 1997.