Practitioner 2010: 254 (1734): 25–28

Tackling upper respiratory tract infections

22 Nov 2010Pais-up subscribers

Upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) refers to a wide range of acute illnesses that affect the upper respiratory tract. URTIs are the most common reason for general practice consultations. On average adults suffer two to three such infections per year. Most URTIs are self-managed. A UK study of 516 women aged 20-44 years found that only one in 18 episodes of sore throat led to a general practice consultation. Patients who do seek consultations often benefit from reassurance, education and instructions for symptomatic home treatment. A large proportion of antibiotic prescribing in primary care is for respiratory tract infections. There was a 44% reduction in antibiotic prescribing for respiratory tract infections between 1994 and 2000. The larger part of this reduction was due to lower consultation rates rather than a decrease in prescribing by GPs. Antibiotics are frequently prescribed for resolving symptoms and to prevent complications. Patients' expectations have a significant influence on prescribing, even when their doctor judges that antibiotics are not indicated.There are certain at-risk groups who require immediate antibiotics or further evaluation.

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