Parents whose children develop a cold-related cough may put pressure on pediatricians to prescribe antibiotics. But new research finds such drugs are not effective against cough due to the common cold in children.
The study, presented at an annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians this week, found that when children with acute cough were treated with either an “antitussive” medication (such as an over-the-counter expectorant) or antibiotics, the antibiotics alone showed “a lower percentage of cough resolution.”
Lead researcher Dr. Francesco de Blasio, of the Clinic Center Private Hospital in Naples, Italy, said doctors typically prescribe antibiotics to anxious parents worried about their children’s cold and cough symptoms, even though they know such drugs will not help.SPECIAL: Improving Memory Can Reduce Alzheimer's Risk
"In our experience, antibiotics are often prescribed by the general practitioner to treat cough in children, many times to pacify parents," said de Blasio. "However, antibiotics show very little effectiveness at treating cough due to your average head cold."
To reach their conclusions, De Blasio and colleagues tracked the treatment of 305 Italian children by pediatricians for acute cough from the common cold.
Of the children, 89 received antibiotics only, while others received various other treatments (some in combination with antibiotics), such as antitussives, codeine, cloperastine, and levodropropizine. The results showed no difference in benefits between children treated with antitussives alone and those receiving a combination of antibiotics and antitussives. Researchers also found children treated with antibiotics only had a lower percentage of cough resolution than children treated with antitussive only.
But de Blasio also noted even over-the-counter cough remedies are rarely very effective.SPECIAL: Improving Memory Can Reduce Alzheimer's Risk
"Few drugs are effective as cough suppressants, and antibiotics are no more effective in relieving cough than the use of no medication," he said. "However, peripheral antitussives, such as levodropropizine, appear to be the best option at relieving cough."
He added: "Using antibiotics as a treatment for cough without suspected infection is unnecessary and can be harmful. Repeated use of antibiotics, especially when they are ineffective, can lead to adverse allergic reactions or a resistance to the medications."