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Antibiotic use questioned for acute coughs

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New research has claimed that antibiotics have little effect on tackling symptoms or aiding recovery in patients with discoloured phlegm caused by an acute cough.

A Cardiff University report said that both clinicians and patients associated yellow and green phlegm with bacterial infection, which is more likely to feel the benefits of antibiotics than a cough with none or clear-coloured phlegm.

However, the study, which analysed more than 3,400 adults, found that antibiotics did not tackle symptoms any better or cure the cough among sufferers with discoloured phlegm, according to the European Respiratory Journal.

The research also reported that recovery did not increase among those feeling generally unwell on its own, or taken together with phlegm production, if antibiotics were prescribed.

Professor Chris Butler, of the Cardiff University School of Medicine, said: “Antibiotic prescribing in this situation simply unnecessarily exposes people to side effects from antibiotics, undermines future self care, and drives up antibiotic resistance.”

The Cardiff University team worked with colleagues from 14 European centres using data from an observational study of 3,402 adult patients with acute cough presenting for health care in 14 primary care networks.

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