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Can Homeopathy Offer a Viable Alternative to Antibiotic Use in the Treatment of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections? A Review and Discussion of the Literature
05 February 2018 (online)
Upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) is a common illness, especially in children. It comprises a variety of symptoms, including sore throat, cough and coryza associated with fever, generally of viral origin, and accounts for a substantial proportion of consultations with family doctors. According to NICE guideline on self-limiting respiratory tract infections, around 60% of antibiotics prescribed in primary care are for respiratory tract infection. In the light of a mounting antimicrobial resistance (AMR) crisis, the UN, WHO, the EU Commission, and NICE UK all emphasise the need for alternative approaches to antibiotic use. Homeopathy differs from standard treatment in many ways, but the objectives of reducing symptom severity, including pain and distress and accelerating recovery, are the same as in conventional medicine. A growing body of evidenced-based research suggests that homeopathy can be used to prevent and treat upper respiratory tract infections (Zanasi et al. 2014; Jong et al. 2016; Ramchandani 2010; van Haselen et al. 2016), and acute complications such as acute otitis media (ear infections) (Bell & Boyer 2013; Fixsen 2013). There are, however, social and cultural factors that can aggravate these conditions, which also need to be considered. For this presentation, I consider the current research evidence on URTIs and homeopathy. In the light of the growing AMR crisis, I consider the various factors promoting and deterring the use of homeopathy in primary care settings, existing use of homeopathy for acute infections and additional health and well-being, and safety issues that require consideration.
Keywords: Upper respiratory tract infections, homeopathy, antibiotic resistance, socio-economic factors, primary care