Heneghan's team noted that significant pain relief was only observed in adult patients and not in children receiving corticosteroids.
In addition, other painkillers made no difference in the results, the researchers found.
"What we don't know is: do corticosteroids replace antibiotics?" Heneghan stated. "That's another piece of research we would like to do," he said.
Dr. Julie Wei, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, agreed that steroids work well in relieving severe sore throat pain, but she cautioned that they are not a substitute for antibiotics, which treat the infection, not the pain.
"The use of steroid should never be for the purpose of replacing antibiotics," Wei said. "Based on the current information, that is not the conclusion people should have."
Single-dose steroid use is already a common practice, Wei said. "For example, all my pediatric patients undergoing tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy get a single dose intravenously at the time of surgery, because steroids are the most potent anti-nausea, anti-vomiting medication we have," she said.
Single-dose steroids also help improve eating and drinking, and feeling good, Wei said. "Also, people in the emergency room or children admitted for throat abscess usually get a single dose of steroids if they are having severe pain or difficulty opening their mouth due to inflammation. We ENTs already recommend that commonly," she added.
"The bottom line is, it is already commonly used in anesthesia, ER setting, etc., but does not replace antibiotics," Wei said.
For more information on sore throat, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Carl Heneghan, M.D., deputy director, Centre for Evide
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