The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in cooperation with the American College of Physicians (ACP), is advising doctors and other health professionals not to prescribe antibiotics to patients in order to treat acute respiratory tract infections (ARTIs).

According to the new guidelines released by the CDC and the ACP, antibiotic medications are not needed to treat ARTIs, such as sinus infections, sore throat, bronchitis and the common cold, in adult patients.

The directive is based on a latest study featured in the Annals of Internal Medicine in which researchers discovered that 50 percent of the total number of antibiotic prescriptions given out by doctors may be inappropriate or even unnecessary in an outpatient setting. This practice equates to more than $3 billion worth of costs which could have been avoided.

The findings of the study also showed that antibiotic use is responsible for a majority of medication-related side effects, as well as the cause of one in every five emergency room visits because of adverse reactions to drugs.

Dr. Wayne J. Riley, president of the ACP, said the misuse of antibiotics for ARTI treatment plays a crucial role in the spread of antibiotic-resistant diseases, which is a threat to public health.

He said that reducing excessive use of antibiotic treatments for ARTIs, especially in adults, is a priority in medical clinics.

It is also considered a High Value Care method to improve the quality of care given to patients, reduce the costs of health care and slow or prevent the proliferation of antibiotic resistance.

Guidelines On Prescribing Antibiotic Treatment

Common Cold

To help prevent the overuse of antibiotics in treating ARTIs, doctors are advised not to prescribe these types of drugs to patients who are diagnosed with the common cold.

Instead, doctors should tell their patients that symptoms of the illness can last up to two weeks, and that they should have a follow-up if the symptoms become worse or if they continue beyond the expected recovery time.

Doctors should inform their patients about the benefits and risks of undergoing symptomatic therapy, which is often recommended for managing symptoms of the common cold. They should also explain that antibiotic treatments are not necessary and could have adverse effects.


In treating patients suffering from uncomplicated bronchitis, doctors are advised not to conduct testing or prescribe antibiotic use unless the patient is suspected of having pneumonia. Instead, these patients can be given cough suppressants, antihistamines, expectorants, beta agonists and decongestants.

Sore Throat

Patients diagnosed with sore throat should be advised by their doctors to take analgesic therapy in place of antibiotic use. Analgesic drugs such as aspirin, throat lozenges, acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications are designed to reduce pain often associated with sore throat.

Doctors should also inform their patients that sore throat typically takes about a week before subsiding. This makes antibiotic use unnecessary as it would not improve symptoms and could even produce adverse effects.

Streptococcal Pharyngitis

Doctors should test individuals showing signs of group A streptococcal pharyngitis, such as persistent fevers or a combination of other symptoms of the infection. Antibiotic use should only be prescribed if the patient has been confirmed to have streptococcal pharyngitis.

Sinus Infection

Symptoms of uncomplicated sinus infection, even those caused by bacterial strains, often go away on their own without the use of antibiotics. A majority of sinus infection patients experience more adverse effects from using antibiotics than benefits.

Doctors should advise these individuals to use analgesics for pain relief and antipyretics for fevers.

Photo : Oliver Dodd | Flickr

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.