Around 4% of all visits to family medicine specialty is attributed to sore throats. The condition is the second most common among acute infections treated by family physicians. Most of the individuals who experience symptoms and discomfort as a result of sore throat do not seek medical attention. Many depend on home remedies and OTC medication for relief. The most common question among individuals intending to rely on home remedies/OTC medication is – does ibuprofen help with sore throat? Here is a clear evidence based explanation about the suitability of the painkiller for treating the condition.

What causes sore throat – does ibuprofen help with sore throat?

Before we answer the question – does ibuprofen help with sore throat? – it is important to understand the causes for sore throat. Typically sore throats are attributed viruses such as cold or influenza, and also as a result of smoking. In a small percentage of cases, sore throats are also attributed to bacteria. The most common symptoms of sore throat include difficulty while swallowing, foul breath, dry throat, irritation in the throat, swelling in the neck and a mild cough. There is a possibility of running a high temperature and headache in certain cases. As a result of inflammation due to laryngitis it is possible that patients may end up with a rough hoarse voice. Other common conditions include tonsillitis, glandular fever and strep throat.

There are less common reasons for sore throats and are serious in nature. For instance, quinsy refers to the condition where pus collects at the back of the throat, is painful in nature. Similarly, epiglottis refers to the inflammation at the back of the throat and can also impact normal breathing and swallowing. Typically sore throats are not treated with antibiotics as it will not help in offering faster relief. Antibiotics are prescribed for sore throats when the underlying causes are positively identified as bacterial infections. Serious conditions such as quinsy and epiglottis are require medical attention at the earliest.

Common remedies for treating sore throats

The most common remedies for treating sore throats include gargling with warm salt water, which is known to deliver quick results. However, this is not the best option for small children who do not know how to gargle. Individuals with sore throats are advised to consume lots of fluids as sore throat induces dryness. Recommended foods include soft, cool food products that will be easy on the throat and soothing. Smoking is to be fully avoided in addition to staying away from places where passive smoking can cause irritation to the throat. Individuals with sore throats are advised to suck ice cubes. The size of ice cubes that are sucked should not be too small, as there is a possibility of choking on the cubes, especially in the case of children.

Medically prescribed treatment options

It is time to answer the question – does ibuprofen help with sore throat? – as suggested by medical experts. Latest research and studies have resulted in recommendations on the best treatment regimen for managing sore throats. Medical practitioners have been advised to rely on painkillers such as ibuprofen, paracetamol for managing sore throats, and rely on antibiotics only when infections have been positively attributed to bacteria. As most of the sore throat conditions are caused by viruses, the body naturally fights the infections and the only requirement is to soothe the symptoms. Additionally, wrong or overuse of bacteria is likely to result in building bacteria resistant strains, which impact in the treatment of serious infections caused by bacteria.

Paracetamol and ibuprofen help to handle the pain associated with the condition, while other simple remedies will bring a soothing action. Gargling with warm salt water, will help to bring down the infection, resulting in the sore throat resolving naturally. Studies were conducted with oral painkillers and placebo to determine the effects of the painkillers. The different medications that were tested as part of the study included aspirin, diclofenac, paracetamol and ibuprofen. The medications helped to considerably manage the condition, bringing down the pain and discomfort associated with sore throats. However, the known side effects of aspirin and diclofenac made ibuprofen and paracetamol emerge as better options for managing the conditions.

The study also looked at medicated lozenges for bringing down the pain, but results revealed that the pain management was better through oral medications than lozenges. However, the side effects also reduced considerably in medicated lozenges as the proportion of active ingredients also reduced. This clearly answers the question – does ibuprofen help with sore throat? Ibuprofen and paracetamol were found to be effective in managing the pain effectively. The study also considered the effects of corticosteroids, and found that pain was reduced for a short duration. However, as corticosteroids are known to have potential side effects, ibuprofen and paracetamol were considered as better options due to the comparison of side effects.

Final recommendations of health panel from study findings

The final recommendations from the expert health panel on the basis of the study findings conclusively answers the question – does ibuprofen help with sore throat? The panel observed that most individuals with a sore throat did not require antibiotics. Individuals with the condition were advised to seek medical attention only when the conditions persisted for a week despite home remedies. The best method to manage the condition, as per the recommendation is to bring down fever with paracetamol, in the event that the individual had fever. Ibuprofen is recommended for pain management. The oral medications are to be supported by adequate rehydration – consumption of fluids. It is important to ensure that the consumed fluids are clear and not sugary or thick in nature. The use of medicated lozenges may not add to the relief significantly when on oral medications. On an average, conditions are known to last for a week, hence it is advised to follow the regimen for a full week, till the sore throat resolves. Persistent conditions that do not resolve even after a week require medical attention from a family physician.


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