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Antibiotics Given Too Often For Sore Throat: Study

Antibiotics prescribed to a child for a sore throat can often be prevented by conducting a simple strep test, says an American study.

Children are prescribed antibiotics all too often when they complain of sore throat//. This mistake can be avoided by administering a simple test for strep throat, says an eight-year study published in the Journal of American Medical Association.

As many as 53 percent of the estimated 7.3 million American children with sore throats who visit a doctor each year receive antibiotics. But antibiotics are called for in just 15 percent to 36 percent of cases where the source of the pain and inflammation is strep throat, or group A streptococcal pharyngitis. Half the children who were prescribed antibiotics did not undergo a test for strep.

"This over-prescribing of antibiotics could be easily remedied by following known guidelines, which include doing a simple, inexpensive strep test before giving antibiotics," study author Dr. Jeffrey Linder of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School said. "Strep testing is underused…. Instead of writing a prescription, physicians should order a test and make sure they are treating kids' symptoms by offering a pain medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend the strep throat test before giving antibiotics to a child with a sore throat.

"This is critical not just for children but for all patients as unnecessary prescription of antibiotics can lead to a variety of issues including increased costs, the potential development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and adverse drug effects," said Linder.

Excessive use of antibiotics, especially in cases of viral illness where antibiotics are ineffective, has been blamed for accelerating the development of drug-resistant strains of bacteria.

In addition, the study found that 2 7 percent of the children received antibiotics not recommended for use against strep throat. Penicillin, amoxicillin, erythromycin and first-generation cephalosporins are considered effective against strep, the report said.

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