The aim of this retrospective study of electronic patient records in primary health care in Kalmar County, Sweden, was to describe consultations for respiratory tract infections (RTIs) in relation to age, choice of antibiotics and the use of rapid diagnostic tests. During the period 1999-2005, 240,445 visits for RTI were recorded. Children aged <2 y and especially those aged 2-16 y with acute otitis media (AOM), showed decreasing consultations between 2000 and 2005. The consultations for sore throat declined during the study period in all age groups and in 65% of these, antibiotics were prescribed, primarily penicillin V (82%). In sore throat, a positive Strep-A test result was followed by antibiotic prescription in about 92% of cases; when negative, the antibiotic prescription rate was 40%. C-reactive protein (CRP) was analyzed in 36% of all consultations for RTI. In common cold and acute bronchitis, the prescription rates of antibiotics rose with rising CRP. The results show that near-patient tests were used extensively, but often not in accordance with the guidelines. Antibiotic use decreased mainly as a consequence of declined visiting frequencies. This indicates that the new guidelines for AOM and sore throat may have influenced patient consultation habits more than physician prescribing habits.