People have been advised to try honey or over-the-counter remedies as the first line of treatment for a cough.
In new guidelines drafted by the U.K.’s Public Health England (PHE) and The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), officials reported that in most cases, acute coughs are caused by a cold or flu virus, or bronchitis, and last around three weeks.
Accordingly, clinicians have been told not to offer antibiotics “in most cases” as they make little difference to a person’s symptoms.
“If someone has a runny nose, sore throat and cough we would expect the cough to settle over two to three weeks and antibiotics are not needed,” said Dr. Tessa Lewis. “People can check their symptoms on NHS choices or ask their pharmacist for advice. If the cough is getting worse rather than better or the person feels very unwell or breathless then they would need to contact their GP.”
In addition, the experts recommended that people suffering from a cough attempt to manage their symptoms by taking honey or cough medicines containing pelargonium, guaifenesin or dextromethorphan.
However, an antibiotic may be necessary for a cough when a patient has been identified as being unwell or if they are at risk of further complications, for example, people with a pre-existing condition such as lung disease, immunosuppression or cystic fibrosis.
“We are keen to highlight that in most cases, antibiotics will not be necessary to treat a cough. We want people to be offered advice on alternatives that may help ease their symptoms,” Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for guidelines at NICE, said. “When prescribing antibiotics, it is essential to take into account the benefit to the patient and wider implications of antimicrobial resistance, only offering them to people who really need them… We encourage their use only when a person is at risk of further complications.”
Consultation on the new acute cough guidelines closes on 20 September (18).
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