Ibuprofen Ineffective At Treating Common Cold Or Sore Throat
November 5, 2013

Ibuprofen, Steam Inhalation Found Ineffective In Treating Respiratory Infections

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The use of ibuprofen does not appear to be an effective way to help treat colds or sore throats, according to new research appearing in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal.

University of Southampton Professor Paul Little and colleagues found that using the NSAID, either alone or in combination with acetaminophen (paracetamol), appeared to provide no advantages whatsoever to patients suffering from upper respiratory tract infections.

Furthermore, the researchers found that steam inhalation – another treatment method often prescribed by doctors – not only had no benefit in battling those infections, but left approximately two percent of those attempting to inhale steam with mild scalding (though not severe enough to require medical attention).

“Clinicians should probably not advise patients to use steam inhalation in daily practice as it does not provide symptomatic benefit for acute respiratory infections and a few individuals are likely to experience mild thermal injury,” Little said in a statement. “Similarly, routinely advising ibuprofen or ibuprofen and paracetamol together than just paracetamol is also not likely to be effective.”

Furthermore, Little’s team also reported that patients were more likely to return to the doctor within a month with new or worsening symptoms if they were given prescriptions for ibuprofen or ibuprofen with acetaminophen. In fact, between 50 and 70 percent of those given such prescriptions required additional treatment, the researchers said, though ibuprofen was found to help some children and those battling chest infections.

Little described the results as surprising, and said that their findings “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,” he added.

Nearly 900 patients were involved in the randomized control trial, which was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Program Grants for Applied Research initiative. Each study participant was instructed to take either ibuprofen, acetaminophen or a combination of the two, and some of the subjects were also instructed to use steam inhalation as a form of treatment.