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Nov 05, 2013 07:21 AM EST

Paracetamol Helps Cure Coughs, Colds and Sore Throats; Ibuprofen Ineffective, Says Study

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People suffering from a cold or sore throat should practice caution if prescribed ibuprofen as the drug is found to be ineffective in halting the progression of the medicine.

A new study conducted by the University of Southampton researchers, found that ibuprofen or a combination of ibuprofen and paracetemol failed to react against Respiratory Tract Infections(otherwise known as colds or sore throats), although paracetemol alone seemed to work to some extent.

"Paracetemol, ibuprofen or a combination of both are the most common courses of treatment for respiratory tract infections," lead researcher Professor Paul Little told Daily Mail UK. "However our research has shown that ibuprofen is likely to help children, and those with chest infections. This may have something to do with the fact the ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory."

In the study, around 899 patients received different treatment types - paracetamol, ibuprofen or a combination of both - for their respiratory tract infection such as sore throat, runny nose and a cough. Participants were either told to consume the pills when required or at regular intervals (four times a day). Additional to the drugs, some of them were also told to take steam inhalation, another common treatment for the infections.

According to a report in the British Medical Journal, the researchers found that around 50 to 70 percent of the study's participants, who were prescribed ibuprofen or ibuprofen with paracetamol, came back to the physician after a month with worsening or new symptoms.

Plus the steam inhalation offered little comfort to the patients and two percent of the users experienced mild scalding. 

"Clinicians should probably not advise patients to use steam inhalation in daily practice as it does not provide symptomatic benefit for acute respiratory infections and a few individuals are likely to experience mild thermal injury," Little explained in the Journal. "Routinely advising ibuprofen or ibuprofen and paracetemol together than just paracetemol is also not likely to be effective."

The finding proves that treatment with ibuprofen causes progression of the illness instead of curing it.

'This may have something to do with the fact the ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory. It is possible that the drug is interfering with an important part of the immune response and leads to prolonged symptoms or the progression of symptoms in some individuals," Little said. "Although we have to be a bit cautious since these were surprise findings, for the moment I would personally not advise most patients to use ibuprofen for symptom control for coughs colds and sore throat."

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