Antibiotics not effective for cough due to 'common cold' in children

October 22, 2012

New research suggests that antibiotics are not effective in treating cough due to the common cold in children. The study, presented at CHEST 2012, the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians, found that when children with acute cough were treated with either antitussive medication or antibiotics, antibiotics alone showed a lower percentage of cough resolution.

"In our experience, are often prescribed by the to treat cough in , many times to pacify parents," said lead study author Francesco de Blasio, MD, FCCP, Clinic Center Private Hospital, Naples, Italy. "However, antibiotics show very little effectiveness at treating cough due to your average head cold."

To understand how antibiotics were being used in a clinical pediatric setting, Dr. de Blasio and colleagues from the University of Bologna and Dompé SPA in Italy observed the treatment and outcomes of 305 children who required pediatric consultation due to acute cough from the . Of the children, 89 received antibiotics only, while 38 received a combination of antibiotics and antitussives; central ( and cloperastine) in 16 cases, and peripheral (levodropropizine) in 22 children. Forty-four and 79 children received only central or peripheral antitussives, respectively, without antibiotics; 55 children did not receive medication.

Observational results showed no difference in percentage of cough resolution between children treated with antitussive alone vs children receiving a combination of antibiotics and antitussives. On the contrary, children treated with antibiotics only had a lower percentage of cough resolution than children treated with antitussive only. Furthermore, the use of the peripheral antitussive levodropropizine demonstrated a significant in terms of cough resolution compared with centrally acting antitussive drugs (47% vs28%).

"Few drugs are effective as cough suppressants, and antibiotics are no more effective in relieving cough than the use of no medication," he added. "However, peripheral antitussives, such as levodropropizine, appear to be the best option at relieving cough."

Dr. de Blasio's results support the evidence-based guidelines for the diagnosis and management of cough, published in the journal CHEST in 2006, which recommend the use of peripheral antitussives for certain types of cough. Although antibiotics may not be an effective therapy for cough, they can be useful in treating underlying infections that may produce cough, adds Dr. de Blasio. But he warns that antibiotics should not be overused. "Using antibiotics as a treatment for cough without suspected infection is unnecessary and can be harmful," explained Dr. de Blasio. "Repeated use of antibiotics, especially when they are ineffective, can lead to adverse allergic reactions or a resistance to the medications."

"As parents, it is difficult to watch our children suffering from a terrible cough, but turning to antibiotics is not always the answer," said ACCP President-Elect Darcy D. Marciniuk, MD, FCCP. "Depending on the underlying cause of the , a health-care professional can recommend the best treatment options for a child, which, in some cases, may be no treatment."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Two Group A Streptococcus genes linked to 'flesh-eating' bacterial infections

September 22, 2017
Group A Streptococcus bacteria cause a variety of illnesses that range from mild nuisances like strep throat to life-threatening conditions including pneumonia, toxic shock syndrome and the flesh-eating disease formally known ...

Ecosystem approach makes urinary tract infection more treatable

September 22, 2017
The biological term 'ecosystem' is not usually associated with urinary tract infections, but this should change according to Wageningen scientists.

Residents: Frontline defenders against antibiotic resistance?

September 22, 2017
Antibiotic resistance continues to grow around the world, with sometimes disastrous results. Some strains of bacteria no longer respond to any currently available antibiotic, making death by infections that were once easily ...

Individualized diets for irritable bowel syndrome better than placebo

September 21, 2017
Patients with irritable bowel syndrome who follow individualized diets based on food sensitivity testing experience fewer symptoms, say Yale researchers. Their study is among the first to provide scientific evidence for this ...

Superbug's spread to Vietnam threatens malaria control

September 21, 2017
A highly drug resistant malaria 'superbug' from western Cambodia is now present in southern Vietnam, leading to alarming failure rates for dihydroartemisinin (DHA)-piperaquine—Vietnam's national first-line malaria treatment, ...

A dose of 'wait-and-see' reduces unnecessary antibiotic use

September 21, 2017
Asking patients to take a 'wait-and-see' approach before having their antibiotic prescriptions filled significantly reduces unnecessary use, a University of Queensland study has shown.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.