Parental knowledge about common respiratory infections and antibiotic therapy in children

South Med J. 1999 Oct;92(10):971-6. doi: 10.1097/00007611-199910000-00006.


Background: Widespread antibiotic use has fostered the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Parental expectations have been cited as one reason for physicians to overprescribe antibiotics. The objective of this study was to determine parental knowledge about antibiotics and their use for common respiratory tract infections.

Methods: A survey was administered to 100 adults at a rural pediatric office.

Results: Many respondents had misconceptions about the etiology of common respiratory tract infections and the effects of antibiotic therapy. Only 54% knew that a virus is the usual cause of the common cold, and 33% thought that a virus causes strep throat. Almost half (46%) believed that antibiotics kill viruses, while 17% were not sure whether antibiotics kill viruses. Most respondents (60%) had never heard about antibiotic resistance.

Conclusion: Parental knowledge about common respiratory tract infections and about antibiotic therapy is often lacking. Improved parent education may alter parents' expectations concerning antibiotic therapy for their ill children.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bronchitis / microbiology
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Common Cold / virology
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Drug Utilization
  • Female
  • Health Education
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Parents* / education
  • Pharyngitis / microbiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / microbiology
  • Rural Health
  • Streptococcal Infections / diagnosis


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents