Characteristics and experiences of parents and adults who want antibiotics for cold symptoms

Arch Fam Med. 2000 Jul;9(7):589-95. doi: 10.1001/archfami.9.7.589.


Objective: To characterize people who want antibiotics for cold symptoms and to suggest reasons for antibiotic expectations.

Design: Cross-sectional telephone survey in the spring of 1997 (March 10 to May 16).

Setting: Three primary care clinics in metropolitan Minneapolis, Minn.

Participants: Two hundred forty-nine parents of symptomatic children and 256 symptomatic adults contacting their medical provider (primary care physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant) for care of cold symptoms. MAIN DEPENDENT MEASURE: Wanting an antibiotic prescription for cold symptoms.

Results: Thirty percent of parents and 50% of symptomatic adults wanted an antibiotic prescription. Factors associated with desire for antibiotics differed between groups. Parents who wanted antibiotics for their children were more likely than other parents to report severe symptoms (odds ratio [OR], 2.11; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.16-3.85), to want relief for their child (OR, 2.63; 95% CI, 1.34-5.46), and to believe that antibiotic therapy helps cold symptoms (OR, 1.95; 95% CI, 1.08-3.55). Symptomatic adults who wanted antibiotics were more likely than other symptomatic adults to report severe cold symptoms (OR, 2.10; 95% CI, 1.22-3.67) that have lasted too long (OR, 2.40; 95% CI, 1.31-4.49), to previously have recovered faster with antibiotic therapy (OR, 2.82; 95% CI, 1.65-4.89), and to be confident that they know how to treat the cold (OR, 1.79; 95% CI, 1.03-3.16). They were less likely to believe that too many people take antibiotics for a cold (OR, 0.57; 95% CI, 0.33-0.98).

Conclusions: Parents may be amenable to clinical messages that other treatments may be more effective than antibiotics in managing cold symptoms. Experiences of symptomatic adults may conflict with this message. Previous cold-related medical management and drug resistance might need to be discussed with adult patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents*
  • Child
  • Common Cold / diagnosis
  • Common Cold / drug therapy*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Parents


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents