Sore throats are certainly not too much fun.  You can forget about that super spicy red curry and instead must satisfy your palate with bland alternatives such as soup, rice and yogurt.

What causes sore throats? Infections such as viruses are on the top of the list. You might feel some muscle aches, weakness and experience a runny nose and cough. What doesn’t work in this, the most common cause of tonsillitis, are antibiotics. Sure, they have fancy sounding names and yes, your doctor, who probably was just too busy to take the time, wrote the prescription. Yet other than helping the drug manufacturer’s bottom line, there are no benefits.

Strep throat is one of those infections that antibiotics can treat. The real name, streptococcus pyogenes, is usually mercifully shortened to just strep. This bacteria can make for  a very painful, red throat. White spots are often seen in the back of the throat over the tonsils. At times the tonsils are so swollen, that swallowing your sputum becomes problematic and you begin to drool. Your voice might sound garbled as well.

The concern with strep (or for that matter with anything that causes your throat to swell) is your airway. If your airway becomes narrowed, this becomes a true, life threatening emergency. Secondly, strep rarely will spread to other organs, including your heart, which can lead to serious complications.

Antibiotics will in fact prevent the spread of the strep infection. However, this kind of strep infection is rare and is much more common in children than in adults. Furthermore, antibiotic treatment of confirmed strep throat will only shorten the duration of symptoms by one day. Yes, that’s right only one day.

Most medical professionals will treat strep throat with antibiotics, but you should know that, at least as far as adults are concerned, there is some controversy over whether to give antibiotics at all. Antibiotics are not harmless and at times have some serious side effects.

If your throat is really swollen, your doctor may prescribe steroids as well. These medications will reduce the inflammation and pain.

There are certainly other infectious causes of sore throat. Mononucleosis from the Epstein Barr virus is one of these. The tonsils are swollen with white spots, but the lymph nodes are often enlarged in the back rather than in the front of the neck. This infection can last several weeks, even months. It can lead to enlargement of your liver and spleen among other things.

Bottom line is that only a small percentage of sore throats will benefit from antibiotics. Ibuprofen, Tylenol, tea with honey and salt water gargle are some measures which will lessen the nasty symptoms.