Most sore throats don't need steroids
Got a bad sore throat? Don't rush to ask your doctor for steroids such as prednisone, says a new review of studies.
Steroids, given by mouth or by injection, are powerful drugs with short- and long-term side effects and are often prescribed for pain relief in sore throat (acute pharyngitis) caused by the bacteria Streptococci. To examine their effectiveness in this condition, researchers in Canada reviewed published literature on this topic. They came up with 10 gold standard clinical studies comparing corticosteroids - with or without antibiotics - to inactive placebo or standard treatment in patients with sore throat. The studies included nearly 1,100 patients.
Analysis revealed that corticosteroids hastened pain relief by about four and a half hours, on average. Patients taking them had less pain - about one point on a scale of 0 to ten - 24 hours later. For those with known Streptococcal sore throat, steroids worked more quickly, bringing pain relief about 45 minutes sooner.
None of the studies in this analysis reported any serious problems associated with steroid use. However, repeated steroid use can have serious side effects, such as weaker bones while short-term effects include swelling, stomach irritation, and restlessness. Many people may get several sore throats a year and could wind up getting a lot of steroids.
The researchers concluded that steroids shouldn't be prescribed unless there is clear evidence that their benefits outweigh the risks.
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