AT THE HEIGHT of the latest coronavirus wave in January, sore throat was regarded as a possible sign of having the highly transmissible Omicron variant — but it can actually be a symptom of other illnesses, meaning it has many probable remedies.

“Sore throat is a year-round ailment that Filipinos need to be wary of,” said otorhinolaryngologist or ear, nose, and throat (ENT) Dr. Teresa Luisa G. Cruz, who is also the director of the postgraduate institute of medicine at the University of the Philippines Manila, at a virtual discussion on March 8 organized by Bactidol, an oral gargling solution or lozenge manufactured by Johnson & Johnson.

She clarified that sore throat is often used as an umbrella term for various forms of throat-related pain and discomfort, ranging from viral and bacterial infections to irritation from allergies or acid reflux.

“It’s a common ailment, a common chief complaint to the clinics of general practitioners and ENT doctors all over the Philippines,” she said.

Based on how it’s described by the patient, a doctor can pinpoint the underlying cause of a sore throat. An itchy feeling in the throat, for instance, can arise from triggered allergies, whereas a tight feeling akin to choking can indicate acid reflux.

Behaviors observed prior to the sore throat are also quite telling, added Dr. Cruz. These include loud singing or speaking the day before pointing to vocal fatigue, or eating a lot of sweets and not drinking enough water being a sure irritant to the throat.

“Although infection is the most common cause of sore throat, there are other causes especially if it is not described as actual pain,” she said. The treatment then depends on what the diagnosis is.

If untreated, a sore throat could lead to serious problems, like rheumatic fever due to a bacterial infection of the tonsils or difficulty breathing brought about by airway blockage.

Dr. Cruz emphasized: “Home remedies like gargling saltwater or drinking ginger or honey tea offer symptomatic relief, but there’s no scientific basis that these will effectively treat a sore throat and its underlying cause.”

A science-backed solution that is used to treat sore throat is hexetidine, an anti-bacterial, antiviral, and antifungal agent that is the active ingredient in Bactidol.

“This means it protects against most bacteria and fungi,” she said. “It destroys these microorganisms’ cell walls and cell membranes.”

Dr. Cruz also noted that hexetidine is good to prescribe for infections rather than antibiotics, which tend to be abused: “[Antibiotics] may subject the patients to unwanted adverse effects and, on a global scale, may encourage antibiotic resistance. If we abuse them, there may come a time they might not be needed.”

Aside from relieving sore throat, Bactidol can kill up to 99.9% of sore throat-causing viruses within 30 seconds and protect against them for up to 12 hours, said Karlo S. Patron, senior marketing manager for self-care at Johnson & Johnson Philippines. It can also be used for oral healthcare and hygiene. — Brontë H. Lacsamana

SIDEBAR | Throat lozenges effective against viruses in laboratory study

The combination of Cetylpyridinium Chloride (Cl) and Benzydamine Hydrochloride (HCl) in the form of a throat lozenge was found to be effective in killing the coronavirus infection, according to the Steyer study conducted by the Microbiology and Immunology Institute of the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia in 2021.

The lozenges reduced viral concentration by 99.99% in as fast as one minute. This occurred under in-laboratory simulations of lozenge administration, adapted to mimic physiological conditions of the oral cavity.

“There’s still no conclusive evidence that lozenges are effective against coronavirus outside of that,” said Dr. Anthony C. Leachon, a doctor and former special adviser to the country’s pandemic task force, at a virtual discussion on March 16 hosted by Difflam, an analgesic and anti-inflammatory treatment for the throat and mouth.

However, he added that, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s been common practice to prescribe lozenges and oral antiseptic containing Benzydamine HCl and Cetylpyridinium Cl for their anti-inflammatory effect.

Lagi nating inaalagaan ang (We always take care of the) portal of entry, which is usually the respiratory and oral cavity. You have to protect those particular anatomic organs,” he said. B. H. Lacsamana