Acute respiratory tract infections (ARTIs) are the most common reason for visits to the doctor and for outpatient antibiotic prescriptions for adults, according to a recent study.
However, antibiotics are not needed for adults who have the common cold, bronchitis, sore throat or sinus infections, say the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in its latest guidelines on prescribing antibiotics.
Pointing to the overuse of such prescriptions, the CDC said, "Nearly 50 percent of antibiotic prescriptions may be unnecessary or inappropriate in the outpatient setting. Inappropriate use of antibiotics for ARTIs is an important factor contributing to the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections, which is a public health threat.”
According to the new guidelines:
Doctors should advise patients with the common cold that symptoms can last up to two weeks and they should follow up only if the symptoms worsen or exceed the expected time of recovery.
Antibiotics should also not be prescribed for uncomplicated bronchitis unless pneumonia is suspected: "Patients may benefit from symptomatic relief with cough suppressants, expectorants, antihistamines, decongestants and beta-agonists."
In most cases, antibiotics should be prescribed for a sore throat only if a strep test confirms streptococcal pharyngitis. "Physicians should recommend analgesic therapy such as aspirin, acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and throat lozenges, which can help reduce pain."
Uncomplicated sinus infections typically clear up without antibiotics. Antibiotics should be prescribed only if there are persistent symptoms for more than 10 days, or if a patient develops severe symptoms or a high fever, has nasal discharge or facial pain for at least three days in a row, or "worsening symptoms following a typical viral illness that lasted five days, which was initially improving."