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Review: antibiotics for sore throat reduce symptoms at day 3 and the incidence of rheumatic fever and otitis media

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QUESTION: In primary care settings, are antibiotics effective for adults and children with acute sore throats?

Data sources

Studies were identified by searching Medline with the terms pharyngitis, sore throat, and tonsillitis; the Cochrane Library; the Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group trials register; and bibliographies of included studies. Inclusion dates of the studies were 1945–99.

Study selection

Controlled trials were selected if they compared antibiotics with placebo, if the patients had symptoms of acute sore throat and were in primary care settings, and if outcomes included incidence of acute rheumatic fever within 2 months, acute glomerulonephritis within 1 month, acute otitis media, acute sinusitis, quinsy (peritonsillar abscess), or symptoms of throat soreness, headache, or fever.

Data extraction

Data were extracted or sought from the authors of trials …

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  • Source of funding: no external funding.

  • For correspondence: Dr C B Del Mar, Centre for General Practice, University of Queensland Medical School, Brisbane Queensland 4006, Australia. Fax +61 7 3365 5442.