Do Throat Lozenges Really Help ?

Everybody has a piece of free advice for one with a sore throat. While you wonder whose advice to take seriously one of the commonest things , that all of us tend to do is to pop in a throat lozenge. Today with an endless variety of lozenges flooding the market, and every other TV commercial promising instant relief, it's time to ask, how effective are throat lozenges?

Medicated lozenges In most cases, a mere sore throat is easy to treat. Paracetamol, aspirin (in adults) or ibuprofen seem to provide symptomatic relief when used regularly and in adequate doses. However, if you are wondering about the effectiveness of medicated lozenges, here are a few facts. While some medicated lozenges do relieve the symptoms, others only have a soothing effect because they lubricate the throat. Lozenges that contain anesthetic or analgesic ingredients are the most likely to help relieve symptoms. But you may need to pay more for lozenges with these ingredients.

Another common ingredient is antibacterials. But taking antibiotics when they are not needed can be harmful. Every time you take an antibiotic, you are more likely to carry resistant bacteria in your nose and throat. Common antibiotics, or antibiotics administered through injections, cannot kill these resistant bacteria. You may even need to be in hospital for intravenous (IV) antibiotics. And remember, antibiotics are not without side-effects.

Types of lozenges Besides anesthetics, analgesics and antibacterials, the other ingredients that go into throat lozenges are cough suppressant, eucalyptus oil, menthol, peppermint oil, pectin, Echinacea, vitamin C and zinc. Only a few of these - not all - are used in any one brand of throat lozenges.

Anesthetics: Local anesthetics numb the area they are in contact with and provide temporary relief from sore throat.

Analgesics (pain killers): These pain killers belong to the group of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that help reduce swelling.

Antibacterials: They fight bacteria, but since most cases of sore throat are caused by viral infection, antibacterial lozenges don't help.

Cough suppressants (antitussives): These are intended to help suppress dry un , productive coughs, which can contribute to your sore throat.

Menthol / Peppermint: Menthol is an alcohol found in mint oils, especially peppermint. The sensation of nasal decongestion from menthol is a subjective perception, studies show.

Eucalyptus: Like menthol, it is ‘thought to act' as a nasal decongestant.

Pectin: Pectin is a water-soluble carbohydrate that is extracted from fruits, usual ly from citrus peels. In throat lozenges, it is used to coat the throat, and in doing so, has a soothing effect.

Echinacea: A Cochrane review (an international source of reliable health information) of trials investigating the effectiveness of echinacea for preventing and treating common colds found that some preparations might be effective for the early treatment of colds in adults, but the results are not consistent. A flower extract, echinacea, is common in children's cold remedies including sore throat lozenges, but shouldn't be taken beyond a week or two.

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid): A Cochrane review of vitamin C found that the trials did not show any benefit in doses of up to 4 gm daily.

Zinc: New studies have shown that treatment with zinc lozenges significantly decreased the duration of colds. No wonder a zinc mania has swept the US and retailers can't store them fast enough and manufacturers are rushing to launch zinc products.

But the good news is, say experts, zinc lozenges do seem to work.

However, with an increasing awareness, more consumers are now preferring medicines that contain herbal and vitamin remedies.


Above article is an extract from "The Telegraph"


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