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News2008March › Antibiotics: They never help cold-like symptoms › March 2008

Antibiotics: They never help cold-like symptoms

One of the main reasons that people visit the doctor is for cold-like symptoms - which medicine calls upper respiratory tract infections or rhinosinusitis

One of the main reasons that people visit the doctor is for cold-like symptoms - which medicine calls upper respiratory tract infections or rhinosinusitis. And the patient usually walks away with a prescription for a course of antibiotics.

Around 90 per cent of patients will be given the drug, even though doctors are recommended to wait seven days as only those cases of rhinosinusitis that last that long suggest a bacterial infection.

But even this strategy is wrong, new research suggests. Researchers at the University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland, reviewed nine studies that involved 2,547 patients with rhinosinusitis and found that virtually nobody benefited from antibiotics.

Even elderly patients, whose symptoms were more severe and whose recovery time was longer, didn't fare any better when they took the drug.

The researchers reckon that 15 patients with rhinosinusitis symptoms would have to be given antibiotics before one additional patient was cured.

(Source: The Lancet, 2008; 371: 908-14).


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