Pharyngitis / Sore Throat / Tonsillitis

Doses are oral and for adults unless otherwise stated. Visit the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) website for detailed drug information (summary of product characteristics and patient information leaflets). Dosing details, contraindications and drug interactions can also be found in the Irish Medicines Formulary (IMF) or other reference sources such as British National Formulary (BNF) / BNF for children (BNFC). See guidance on dosing in children for quick reference dosage/weight guide. Refer to drug interactions table for detailed drug interactions for all antimicrobials. Note extensive drug interactions for clarithromycin, fluoroquinolones, azole antifungals and rifampicin. Many antibiotics increase the risk of bleeding with anticoagulants.

Note additional warnings for clarithromycin and fluoroquinolones

Comments from Expert Advisory Committee

1. The majority of sore throats are viral; most patients do not benefit from antibiotics. Consider a delayed antibiotic strategy and explain soreness will take about 8 days to resolve.

The FeverPAIN scoring system helps to identify those who are most likely to benefit from antibiotics. One point is assigned to each of the following five criteria:

presence of Fever; Pus on the tonsils;

Attendance within three days of onset of symptoms; severely Inflamed tonsils;

No cough or coryzal symptoms present.

Treatment with immediate antibiotics should be considered if the score is 4 or 5; offer a deferred antibiotic to those with scores of 2 or 3; do not offer an antibiotic to those with 0 or 1.

Those with a history of otitis media may benefit more from antibiotics. A-
Antibiotics only shorten duration of symptoms by 8 hours. A+

2. Antibiotics to prevent otitis media NNT 200, A+ Quinsy NNT >4000. B

3. Penicillin for 7 days is more effective than 3 days. B+ Twice daily higher dose can also be used. A- QDS may be more appropriate if severe. D

4. Phenoxymethylpenecillin is effective treatment for Invasive Group A strep infections iGAS -use higher dose qds for 10 days . See GP Information on Invasive Group A Strep from ICGP

5. Phenoxymethylpenicillin suspension is available in two flavours; Calvepen® (caramel) and Kopen® (orange).

Symptomatic Relief

  • Discomfort on swallowing – lozenges containing benzocaine or flurbiprofen. Use oral parecetomol or ibuprofen for stronger pain relief
  • Sore, ‘tickly’ throat – demulcent pastilles. Sucking a lozenze or pastille promotes saliva production which lubricates and soothes the throat. Main disadvantage; high sugar content though sugar-free preparations are available.
  • Local analgesia - antiinflammatory spray or mouthwash (e.g. benzydamine)
  • Weak evidence supports the use of a once off oral dose of 10mg dexamethasone in adults with sore throat. This has been shown to reduce throat pain at 48 hours compared to placebo.


Consider a no or delayed antibiotic strategy.A+

If antibiotics deemed clinically indicated:


Patient Information

The HSE Health A-Z website provides patient information on many hundreds of conditions and treatments

We recommend patients use the website developed by HSE/ICGP/IPU partnership for tips on how to get better from common infections without using antibiotics, what you can do for yourself or a loved one and when to seek help.

Reviewed Nov 2018

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