Doctors: Don't treat cough with antibiotics

Published On: Jan 22 2013 02:13:53 PM EST
Updated On: Jan 23 2013 05:00:00 AM EST

Coughing is a common symptom of the cold or flu, and doctors say treating it with antibiotics or over-the-counter medications can do more harm than good.

WESTON, Fla. -

Coughing is a common symptom of the cold or flu, and doctors say treating it with antibiotics or over-the-counter medications can do more harm than good.

"We've come to the conclusion that we want the cough to be gone by tomorrow but that is not a reality," said Dr. Gustavo Ferrer of Cleveland Clinic Florida.

A study in the Annals Of Family Medicine says a typical cough lasts 18 to 28 days.

"Cough is a normal reflex to help the body, help the lung, to help the body get rid of something that has invaded the body, to get it out," said Ferrer.

Doctors say trying to suppress the cough with over-the-counter medication actually prolongs it.

"They shouldn't be using this all the time and suppress the cough through all the day because they can have the adverse effect of suppressing the cough too much," said Ferrer.

Ferrer recommends using antihistamines and nasal sprays to ease the post-nasal drip that can exacerbate a cough. He said turning to antibiotics will cause more harm than good.

"We have given too much antibiotics in the community, so the bacteria have gotten to know those antibiotics, so when you develop a true infectious process and you end up in the hospital, you're going to end up with a resistant infectious process," he said.

In practices that used efforts to discourage antibiotic use for coughs, prescription rates dropped about 12 percent.

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