Antibiotic prescribing in patients with self-reported sore throat

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Objectives: To investigate the predictors of general practitioner (GP) consultation and antibiotic use in those developing sore throat.

Methods: We conducted a prospective population-based cohort study on 4461 participants in two rounds (2010–11) from 1897 households.

Results: Participants reported 2193 sore throat illnesses, giving a community sore throat incidence of 1.57/ person-year. 13% of sore throat illnesses led to a GP consultation and 56% of these consultations led to antibiotic use. Participants most likely to have sore throats included women and children (e.g. school compared with retirement age); adjusted incidence rate ratio (aIRR) of 1.33 and 1.52, respectively. Participants with sore throat were more likely to consult their GP if they were preschool compared with retirement age [adjusted OR (aOR) 3.22], had more days of sore throat (aOR 1.11), reported more severe pain (aOR 4.24) or reported fever (aOR 3.82). Antibiotics were more often used by chronically ill individuals (aOR 1.78), those reporting severe pain (aOR 4.14), those reporting fever (aOR 2.58) or children with earache (aOR 1.85). Among those who consulted, males and adults who reported feeling anxious were more likely to use antibiotics; aOR 1.87 and 5.36, respectively.

Conclusions: Only 1 in 10 people who have a sore throat see a doctor and more than half of those attending get antibiotics. Further efforts to curb antibiotic use should focus on reducing initial GP consultations through public information promoting safe self-management, targeted at groups identified above as most likely to attend with sore throats.

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