10-year-old Sarah Garcia is not feeling well. "My mom brought me because I had a sore throat."
Millions of people head to the doctor every year in the U.S. with the same complaints. Now, new guidelines from the Infectious Diseases Society of America say most sore throats should not be treated with antibiotics because viruses are behind most infections, not strep bacteria.
"Less than a third are actually due to strep, so you want to make sure that it is strep when you prescribe antibiotics because antibiotics won't work against the viruses," says Dr. Stephanie Shaps of William F. Ryan Community Health Center.
Research shows doctors prescribe antibiotics for as many as 70% of patients, but only a small percentage actually need them.
Strep is likely causing a sore throat if the pain comes on suddenly, it hurts to swallow and a person is running a fever. Patients with a sore throat from a virus may also have a cough, runny nose, a hoarse voice and mouth sores.
The new guidelines recommend doctors do a test to confirm strep is the culprit before giving antibiotics.
There are also some simple solutions to soothe a sore throat. Doctors suggest over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen, warm fluids like tea with honey, throat lozenges, and plenty of rest.
Sarah's rapid strep test was negative, so for now her mom will follow that advice. "Just give her plenty of fluids."
And her doctor is sending out her cultures for additional testing to make sure it's just viral.
The new guidelines also recommend against removing children's tonsils just because they suffer from recurring throat infections. Experts say in most cases, the risks of surgery are usually not worth it.