It is estimated that approximately one-third of the world population suffers from a sore throat during the year. The majority of these sore throat cases are due to viral infections, however about a third of them are bacterial in origin, and they are referred to as strep throat. The majority of affected people do not seek medical care, and the course of the pain is self-limiting, as it resolves spontaneously without medication. Some patients seek antibiotic therapy before confirming the diagnosis of strep throat, hoping that it will shorten the duration of the illness and relieve the pain. However, this incorrect use of antibiotics might increase the issue of antibiotics resistance and the rate of side effects due to these medications.
Strep Throat Treatments
The rush to prescribe antibiotics to treat sore throats has fueled patients' pressures on doctors. Doctors tend to overestimate patients' desire to treat sore throats with antibiotics, because they expect fast pain relief. Drinking warm fluids, gargling emollients, and analgesic medications, are commonly used to alleviate the symptoms of strep throat. Additionally, throat lozenges are also marketed globally as over the counter (OTC) remedies for sore throat pain relief.
Strep Throat Lozenges
Lozenges for strep throat pain relief work because they contain active substances such as AMC/DCBA. AMC/DCBA which has antiseptic and anesthetic effects which decreases the number of harmful organisms, and slightly numbs the pain in the affected area. Therefore, they can be helpful not only in relieving sore throat pain, but also in decreasing the rate of inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions.
German scientists performed a study to evaluate the benefits of these lozenges and their possible side effects for sore throat patients. A total of 660 adults were involved in this study in which AMC/DCBA containing lozenges were compared to non-medicated lozenges. The two panels were compared in how much they decreased sore throat pain two hours after taking lozenges. The study also evaluated the efficacy of lozenges in decreasing the difficulty of swallowing and throat numbness for sore throat patients.
The study found that AMC/DCBA containing lozenges had a modest additional effect in alleviating pain for uncomplicated sore throat patients. However, side effects were reported in 16% of the included patients. These side effects were mild including cough, headache, oral cavity irritation and nasal congestion. The study also found that this beneficial effect of lozenges for sore throats wears off after a few hours so repeated use of the lozenge is required to maintain a sustained pain relief. That's why treatment of sore throat with oral analgesics (pain relief medications) might be more helpful for the treatment of fever and headache that accompanies sore throat because they last longer.
The authors of the study concluded that AMC/DCBA containing lozenges can be an effective and safe option for relieving pain in uncomplicated sore throat patients who are looking for local treatment. However, for a longer duration of pain relief it is recommended to use oral analgesic medications.