Prescribing antibiotics for children with cough does not reduce hospitalization risk

Impact of antibiotics for children presenting to general practice with a cough on adverse outcomes.


Specialists and medical caretakers frequently endorse antibiotics for youngsters with a cough and respiratory disease to avoid return visits, symptoms getting worse or hospitalization.

A new study by the scientists at the University of Bristol along with Universities of Southampton, Oxford and Kings College London suggest that antibiotics reduce the risk of children with a cough ending up in hospital, suggesting that this is an area in which unnecessary antibiotic prescribing could be reduced.

Scientists analyzed 8,320 children (aged 3 months to 15 years) who had displayed to their GP with a cough and other respiratory disease side effects to see whether unfavorable results happened inside 30 long stretches of seeing their GP.

Almost 0.8 % of children among all were hospitalized and 350 (four percent) revisited their GP due to a worsening of symptoms. Scientists did not find any clear proof that antibiotics reduced hospitalization for children, supporting similar research findings in adults.

However, there was evidence that a strategy of delayed antibiotic prescribing (giving parents or carers a prescription and advising they wait to see if symptoms worsened before using it) reduced the number of return visits to the GP.

Dr. Niamh Redmond, a lead author of the study, said, “The good news is that most children who present to their GP with an acute cough and respiratory infection symptoms are at low risk of hospitalization. We know that GPs, for a variety of reasons, commonly prescribe antibiotics in these cases as a precautionary measure.”

“However, our study shows that antibiotics are unlikely to reduce this already small risk. This means that along with other strategies, there is real potential to reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescribing, which is a major contributor to the growing public health threat of antimicrobial resistance.”

“If a GP or nurse is considering antibiotic prescribing for a child presenting with acute cough, a delayed prescription may be preferable as we have shown that delayed prescribing reduces the need for further consultations.”

The study is published in the British Journal of General Practice.

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