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Antibiotics for children's cough don't reduce hospitalization risk, study says

By
Allen Cone
Children prescribed antibiotics to treat coughs and respiratory infections do not have a reduced risk of being hospitalized, according to a study in Britain. Photo by Semevent/pixabay
Children prescribed antibiotics to treat coughs and respiratory infections do not have a reduced risk of being hospitalized, according to a study in Britain. Photo by Semevent/pixabay

Sept. 11 (UPI) -- If a child is prescribed antibiotics to treat coughs and respiratory infections, the chances of being hospitalized are not reduced, according to a study in Britain.

Researchers from the universities of Bristol, Southampton, Oxford and Kings College London found that antibiotics might be overly prescribed because they don't prevent the symptoms from worsening. Their findings, which were published Tuesday in the British Journal of General Practice, confirmed similar research results in adults.

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"The good news is that most children who present to their GP [general practitionary] with acute cough and respiratory infection symptoms are at low risk of hospitalization," lead author Dr. Niamh Redmond, of Center for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol, said in a press release. "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."

And this will help prevent antibiotic resistance, they say.

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"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," Redmond said.

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Researchers analyzed 8,320 British children between the ages of 3 months and 15 years, who had come to their doctor with cough and other respiratory infection symptoms from 2011 to 2013. They studied whether adverse outcomes occurred within 30 days of seeing the doctor.

They found 4 percent returned to the doctor because of deteriorating conditions.

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Sixty-five children were hospitalized and 350 revisited their GP due to a worsening of symptoms.

The researchers report no clear evidence that antibiotics reduced hospitalization, but that writing delayed antibiotic prescriptions reduced the number of return visits.

Among the patients, immediate antibiotics were prescribed to 2,313 and delayed antibiotics to 771.

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"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," Redmond said.

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