Clinicians' management of children and adolescents with acute pharyngitis

Sarah Y. Park*, Michael A. Gerber, Robert R. Tanz, John M. Hickner, James M. Galliher, Ilin Chuang, Richard E. Besser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE. Sore throat is a common complaint in children and adolescents. With increasing antimicrobial resistance because of antimicrobial overuse, accurate diagnosis is imperative. Appropriate management of acute pharyngitis depends on proper use and interpretation of clinical findings, rapid antigen-detection tests, and throat cultures. We surveyed pediatricians and family physicians to evaluate their management strategies for children and adolescents with acute pharyngitis and to assess the availability and use of diagnostic tests in office practice. METHODS. In 2004, surveys were mailed to a random sample of 1000 pediatrician members of the American Academy of Pediatrics and 1000 family physician members of the American Academy of Family Physicians. We assessed factors associated with physicians using an appropriate management strategy for treating acute pharyngitis. RESULTS. Of 948 eligible responses, 42% of physicians would start antimicrobials before knowing diagnostic test results and continue them despite negative results, with 27% doing this often or always. When presented with clinical scenarios of patients with acute pharyngitis, ≤23% chose an empirical approach, 32% used an inappropriate strategy for a child with pharyngitis suggestive of group A Streptococcus, and 81% used an inappropriate strategy for a child with findings consistent with viral pharyngitis. Plating cultures in the office was associated with an appropriate management strategy, although not statistically significant. Solo/2-person practice and rural location were both independent factors predicting inappropriate strategies. CONCLUSIONS. There is much room for improvement in the management of acute pharyngitis in children and adolescents. Most physicians use appropriate management strategies; however, a substantial number uses inappropriate ones, particularly for children with likely viral pharyngitis. Efforts to help physicians improve practices will need to be multifaceted and should include health policy and educational approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1871-1878
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Pharyngitis
  • Streptococcus group A
  • Streptococcus pyogenes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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