Nonspecific Upper Respiratory Tract Infection: Physician Information Sheet (Adults)
Principles of appropriate antibiotic use apply to the diagnosis and treatment of acute upper respiratory tract infection (common cold) in otherwise healthy adults.
Symptoms may last up to 10-14 days.
- The common cold is caused by viral pathogens, such as rhinovirus, parainfluenza, adenovirus, RSV, and influenza.
- Bacterial rhinosinusitis complicates only about 2% of cases.
- Although sore throat, nasal symptoms, and cough may be present, there is no prominent symptom or sign.
- Symptoms may last up to 14 days with an average of 7 to 11 days (J Clin Microbiol 1997;35:2864; JAMA 1967;202:158).
- Purulent nasal secretions do not predict bacterial sinusitis unless accompanied by other signs and symptoms of bacterial infection.
- Studies have found the common cold resolves without antibiotic treatment.
- Treatment with an antibiotic does not shorten the duration of illness or prevent bacterial rhinosinusitis.
- Patients with purulent green or yellow secretions do not benefit from antibiotic treatment.
- Over-the-counter cough suppressants have limited efficacy for relief of cough due to upper respiratory infection (Chest 2006; 129:95S-103S).
- Acute cough associated with the common cold may be relieved by first-generation antihistamines and decongestants (Chest 2006;129:95S-103S).
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