Home Health Antibiotics cannot cure a sore throat

Antibiotics cannot cure a sore throat

by Tania Griffin
A mother giving her daughter a throat spray

In the lead-up to World Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness Week (18–24 November), generic medicine provider Pharma Dynamics aims to clear up the misconceptions and myths about antibiotic use, which can contribute to the inappropriate or overuse of these life-saving medications. 

Among the most common public misconceptions is that a sore throat can be cured with antibiotics.

Based on a study conducted across 13 countries, including South Africa, among 5 000+ respondents, over 80% confirmed they visited a doctor in the last 12 months for treating a sore throat. Those who thought antibiotics would be helpful varied considerably across countries – from 24% in France to 94% in Saudi Arabia. More than 60% of South Africans also believed antibiotics could help.

Elani van Zyl, critical care product manager for Pharma Dynamics, says an acute sore throat is one of the most common concerns for which patients consult doctors. “However, antibiotics are not always effective at treating a sore throat, since most throat infections are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Antibiotics are designed to treat bacterial infections, not viral infections.”

She says the overuse or misuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance, which is a major public health concern.

“Using antibiotics when they are not needed can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibiotics can have side effects, and taking them when not necessary can expose you to unnecessary risks. Some people may experience allergic reactions or digestive problems when taking antibiotics. When antibiotics are used inappropriately, they can also disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the body, including the gut microbiome, leading to yeast or other fungal infections. 

“Most throat infections typically run their course without medical intervention and most people recover within a week or so as their immune system fights off the virus. However, in some cases, a sore throat may be caused by a bacterial infection such as streptococcal bacteria (strep throat). In these cases, antibiotics may be prescribed by a healthcare provider to treat the infection and prevent potential complications. Your healthcare provider can help determine whether your sore throat is viral or bacterial through clinical evaluation and, if necessary, diagnostic tests like throat swabs,” Van Zyl adds.

Antibiotic resistance is a significant and growing global public health problem. It poses a serious threat to modern medicine and can have wide-ranging consequences for individuals, communities and healthcare systems. 

“When bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, it means infections caused by these bacteria become more difficult – and in some cases, impossible – to treat. This can lead to prolonged illnesses, increased mortality rates and a higher risk of complications from infections,” says Van Zyl.

Efforts to combat antibiotic resistance involve a multifaceted approach, which starts with the responsible use of antibiotics. It’s essential to follow your healthcare provider’s guidance regarding the use of antibiotics and not self-prescribe or use antibiotics unnecessarily, as this can contribute to antibiotic resistance and other health problems. If you have a sore throat, it’s a good practice to consult a healthcare professional to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.

Patient education and awareness about the appropriate use of antibiotics are crucial components of antibiotic stewardship. When patients understand when antibiotics should be used and when they should be avoided, they can play an active role in promoting responsible antibiotic use. 

Van Zyl says that when patients are actively engaged in antibiotic stewardship, it can have a positive impact on public health by reducing antibiotic resistance and preserving the effectiveness of these critical medications. 

“If you’re plagued by the odd sore throat, try fast-acting throat sprays like Gesoral: a non-steroidal medication with anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antimicrobial properties, which is effective at soothing and healing a sore mouth or throat, with the added advantage of reducing the development of plaque.”

Visit My Dynamics for more information on the responsible use of antibiotics.

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