• By Deborah Balzer

Mayo Expert Discusses Antibiotics Overuse and Misuse

January 19, 2016

pills, medicine, antibiotic, syringe with the the word antibiotic on a piece of paperThe next time you go to see your health care provider for an upper respiratory illnesses, don't assume you'll get a prescription for an antibiotic. The American College of Physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released a paper that outlines best practices for use of antibiotics. It includes a recommendation that clinicians should not prescribe antibiotics for patients with a common cold. Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist Dr. Pritish Tosh says, "We are seeing across the country and the world worsening issues of antibiotic resistance bacteria, meaning that we have antibiotics that are sometimes not effective against bacteria that is causing infections."

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections such as pneumonia and won't help viral illnesses such as colds, flu and most sore throats.

Watch Dr. Pritish Tosh here

Dr. Tosh adds, "The area where antibiotics are misused is in the treatment of upper respiratory infections. Often people have a viral cough or viral upper respiratory illness, or perhaps even a mild bacterial process that gets better on its own. It's very clear you don't need antibiotics to treat these." He says the paper gives physicians some guidance on when they should prescribe antibiotics to patients.

The American College of Physicians recommends:

  • Clinicians should not prescribe antibiotics for patients with bronchitis. Antibiotics should only be used if patients have pneumonia.
  • Clinicians should test patients with symptoms that could be strep throat. Because symptoms alone are not reliable, antibiotics should only be prescribed when testing confirms strep throat. Other sore throat infections do not need antibiotics.
  • Clinicians should not prescribe antibiotics for sinus infections unless patients have severe symptoms or symptoms that last more than 10 days. Patients whose symptoms improve but eventually get worse may also need antibiotics.
  • Clinicians should not prescribe antibiotics for patients with the common cold.

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