Overuse of antibiotics with upper respiratory tract infections in a primary care clinic

A. D. Cohen*, H. Reuvni, N. Goldstein, M. Alkan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the majority of cases upper respiratory tract infections (URI's) are caused by viruses. Nonetheless, in many instances, patients with URI's are over-treated with antibiotics. In order to evaluate the use of antibiotic therapy in patients with URI's, we recorded medications prescribed for URI's in 394 young adults seeking care in a primary care clinic. The following parameters were assessed: rhinnorhea, cough, sore throat, dysphagia, tonsillar exudates, tonsillar enlargement and cervical lymphadenopathy. Throat cultures were taken from all the patients. Results: Antibiotic therapy was prescribed for 99 of the 370 patients (26.8%) with URI's and negative throat cultures. Among these patients, a high prevalence of the following findings was evident: tonsillar enlargement, (66.7%), tonsillar exudates (48.5%), cervical lymphadenopathy (42.4%), lack of rhinorrhea (40.4%), lack of cough (32.0%) and fever (31.3%). Conclusions: Excess antibiotic therapy was prescribed for patients with URI's. Possible explanations are: clinical findings that suggest a diagnosis of follicular tonsillitis, early antibiotic treatment that is not based on throat cultures or antigen detection tests, and multiple treating physicians. Recommendations: We recommend that in cases of patients with URI's, antibiotics should not be prescribed unless diagnosis of a streptococcal infection is supported by results of throat cultures or antigen detection tests. Furthermore, in primary care clinics with a number of physicians, treatment should guarantee appropriate medical follow-up.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)810-812+896
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


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