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BMJ. 2003 Dec 6;327(7427):1324.

Penicillin for acute sore throat in children: randomised, double blind trial.

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  • 1Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, Stratenum 6.131, PO Box 85060, 3508 AB Utrecht, Netherlands.



To assess the effectiveness of penicillin for three days and treatment for seven days compared with placebo in resolving symptoms in children with sore throat.


Randomised, double blind, placebo controlled trial.


43 family practices in the Netherlands.


156 children aged 4-15 who had a sore throat for less than seven days and at least two of the four Centor criteria (history of fever, absence of cough, swollen tender anterior cervical lymph nodes, and tonsillar exudate). Interventions Patients were randomly assigned to penicillin for seven days, penicillin for three days followed by placebo for four days, or placebo for seven days.


Duration of symptoms, mean consumption of analgesics, number of days of absence from school, occurrence of streptococcal sequelae, eradication of the initial pathogen, and recurrences of sore throat after six months.


Penicillin treatment was not more beneficial than placebo in resolving symptoms of sore throat, neither in the total group nor in the 96 children with group A streptococci. In the groups randomised to seven days of penicillin, three days of penicillin, or placebo, one, two, and eight children, respectively, experienced a streptococcal sequela.


Penicillin treatment had no beneficial effect in children with sore throat on the average duration of symptoms. Penicillin may, however, reduce streptococcal sequelae.

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