Antibiotics for common respiratory tract infections in adults

Arch Intern Med. 2002 Feb 11;162(3):256-64. doi: 10.1001/archinte.162.3.256.


A thorough review of the published information indicates that antibiotics rarely benefit acute bronchitis, exacerbations of asthma and chronic bronchitis, acute pharyngitis, and acute sinusitis, although they are commonly prescribed for these illnesses. Rather than prescribing them for these conditions, practitioners should explain to their patients that antibiotics, which have numerous adverse effects, will not hasten resolution of their symptoms, which will often respond to other medications. Most patients will accept this approach if the clinician addresses their concerns, shows a personal interest in them, discusses the expected course of the ailment, and explains the treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / microbiology
  • Bronchitis / drug therapy
  • Bronchitis / microbiology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / microbiology*
  • Sinusitis / drug therapy
  • Sinusitis / microbiology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents