Managing upper respiratory tract infections
Antibiotics often do as much harm as good
Upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) is one of the most common problems to present to healthcare services, including general practices, walk-in centres, out of hours services, and emergency departments. Of all antibiotic prescriptions, 80% originate in primary care and more than half of these are for respiratory tract infections.1
Having a rational evidence based approach to antibiotic prescribing is important for two reasons. Firstly, most URTIs are self limiting and will resolve without antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is a major concern and prescribing antibiotics inappropriately exacerbates the problem. Secondly, the management of URTI uses large amounts of healthcare resources. Prescribing antibiotics medicalises these illnesses and promotes further consultations, whereas providing patients with information and empowering them to manage their own illness can lead to greater patient satisfaction and reduce the burden on the healthcare system.
Appropriate management of URTIs involves identifying the groups of patients who are most likely to benefit