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Why you shouldn’t take antibiotics for a persistent cough

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If you have a persistent cough, don’t take antibiotics—even if there is a bacterial infection.

It’s a routine prescription for a cough, but it doesn’t reduce its duration or severity, say researchers at Georgetown University Medical Centre.  

Doctors often assume a cough—a lower tract infection—is the result of a bacterial infection, and so hand out an antibiotic.  Around 29 percent of people with a cough were given the drug, the researchers found when they analysed treatment files on people with a persistent cough.  Just 7 percent were instead given an antiviral.  But the outcome was similar whichever drug was given, they found.

Antibiotic prescribing ushers in the age of the drug-resistant superbugs, but the drugs also cause a range of side effects, such as dizziness, nausea and rash, and there’s also a 4 percent chance of a serious adverse reaction, including anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction. 

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References
Journal of General Internal Medicine, 2024; doi: 10.1007/s11606-024-08758-y
Article Topics: antibiotics, cough
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