January 19, 2016 | | Comments 0
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CDC: No more antibiotics for the common cold

The use of antibiotics and the rise of antibiotic-resistant diseases have been an increasing concern for public health. Studies have shown that the misuse of antibiotics is decreasing their effectiveness against new strains of infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that half the antibiotics currently prescribed for acute respiratory tract infections (ARTI), including bronchitis and the common cold, are unnecessary.

In response, the CDC and the American College of Physicians (ACP) released new guidelines for the use of antibiotics for ATRIs in the Annals of Internal Medicine on January 19. The new guidelines explain when it’s appropriate to give antibiotics to ARTI patients and what steps are needed to make that decision.

“Overuse of antibiotics contributes to the spread of antibiotic resistance, which has led to approximately 2 million people developing antibiotic-resistant illnesses and 23,000 associated deaths in the United States each year,” lead study author Aaron M. Harris, MD, MPH, LCDR, said during an interview with Medscape Medical News. “Furthermore, antibiotics are a leading reason for emergency room visits for drug side effects, responsible for one of every five visits.”


Don’t start antibiotic therapy unless pneumonia is suspected. Bronchitis symptoms can instead be treated with cough suppressants, expectorants, antihistamines, decongestants, and β-agonists.

Group A Streptococcus

Only give antibiotics to patients once streptococcal pharyngitis is confirmed. Test using a rapid antigen detection test and or/culture if a patient has the symptoms of group A streptococcal pharyngitis.

If patients complain of a sore throat, reassure them that it will typically it will go away in less than a week and recommend that they take analgesics such as aspirin or acetaminophen to ease the pain. Explain that unnecessarily prescribing antibiotics can cause several side effects.

Acute Rhinosinusitis

Only give antibiotic treatment for acute rhinosinusitis patients if:

  • Their symptoms last more than 10 days
  • They experience an onset of severe symptoms
  • They have a temperature higher than 39°C/102.2°F
  • They have purulent nasal discharge or facial pain that lasts at least three consecutive days
  • They develop worsening symptoms after a typical viral illness that lasted five days and had begun improving (double sickening).

The common cold

Never prescribe antibiotics for the common cold.

Instead, explain to patients that symptoms can be treated with other methods and that unnecessarily prescribing antibiotics can cause several ill side effects. Tell each patient to follow up with a physician if symptoms last more than two weeks or worsen.

The full study can be read here. 

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Filed Under: CDCNational News


About the Author: Brian Ward is an Associate Editor at HCPro working on accreditation, patient safety, and quality news.

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