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Antibiotics don’t clear up children’s coughs any quicker

Antibiotics don’t clear up children’s coughs any quicker – in fact they’re as slow as using nothing at all

  • Cough medicine is the best treatment for coughs caused by a common cold, say Italian researchers
  • GPs simply give antibiotics to ‘pacify parents,’ despite the fact they are ineffective

These were the conclusions of Italian researchers, who looked at the treatment of 305 children suffering such coughs.

Of the children, one group received antibiotics only, while another received combination of antibiotics and cough-suppressing medication. The rest of the children received nothing at all.

They found those treated with both cough medicine and antibiotics recovered quicker than those just given antibiotics.

But those given only antibiotics recovered no quicker than the children given nothing.

The study was presented at annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians this week.

Lead author Francesco de Blasio, of the University of Bologna, said GPs often wrote prescriptions for coughs to ‘pacify parents’.

He added: ‘However, antibiotics show very little effectiveness at treating cough due to your average head cold.’

‘Few drugs are as effective as cough suppressants, and antibiotics are no more effective in relieving cough than the use of no medication.’

NHS guidance states that antibiotics are not used to treat coughs because they are only effective in killing bacteria, not viruses.

Therefore, unless you develop a secondary bacterial infection, such as pneumonia, antibiotics will not usually be advised.

Indeed, although antibiotics may not be an effective therapy for cough, they can be useful in treating underlying infections that may produce cough, said Dr de Blasio. ‘But this does not mean they should be overused.

‘Using antibiotics as a treatment for cough without suspected infection is unnecessary and can be harmful. Repeated use of antibiotics, especially when they are ineffective, can lead to adverse allergic reactions or a resistance to the medications.’



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