Everyone gets colds and sore throats now and then, and the usual solution is to pop a few ibuprofen or acetaminophen tablets. But do these common remedies do any good?
A new study published in the British Medical Journal suggests they may not.
A study carried out by the University of Southampton showed that compared with acetaminophen, ibuprofen alone or combined with acetaminopehn provided no advantage for patients overall with respiratory tract infections (otherwise known as colds or sore throats).
Acetaminophen alone, on the other hand, carries a serious overdose risk, especially in children and adults who drink regularly. It's important to read and understand the label before using acetaminophen, sold under the brand name Tylenol.
Additionally steam inhalation, another common treatment method, has no clear benefit and around 2% of people get mild scalding, though not bad enough to see a doctor.
Professor Paul Little, who led the study, said his team found that while ibuprofen was not likely to be effective for most patients, the research did show that ibuprofen is "likely to help children, and those with chest infections."
Patients got worse
The research also showed that patients were more likely to come back within a month with worsening symptoms or new symptoms if they were prescribed with ibuprofen or ibuprofen with acetaminophen. Between 50% and 70% of participants in the study who were prescribed ibuprofen or ibuprofen with acetaminophen came back.
Professor Little admitted this was a surprising result and suggests the treatment may contribute to the progression of the illness. He adds: "This may have something to do with the fact the ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory.
It is possible that the drug is interfering with an important part of the immune response and leads to prolonged symptoms or the progression of symptoms in some individuals. Although we have to be a bit cautious since these were surprise findings, for the moment I would personally not advise most patients to use ibuprofen for symptom control for coughs colds and sore throat."