Clinicians commonly prescribe antibiotics to prevent major adverse outcomes in children presenting in primary care with cough and respiratory symptoms, despite limited meaningful evidence of impact on these outcomes.
To estimate the effect of children's antibiotic prescribing on adverse outcomes within 30 days of initial consultation. Design and setting Secondary analysis of 8320 children in a multicentre prospective cohort study, aged 3 months to <16 years, presenting in primary care across England with acute cough and other respiratory symptoms.
Baseline clinical characteristics and antibiotic prescribing data were collected, and generalised linear models were used to estimate the effect of antibiotic prescribing on adverse outcomes within 30 days (subsequent hospitalisations and reconsultation for deterioration), controlling for clustering and clinicians' propensity to prescribe antibiotics. Results Sixty-five (0.8%) children were hospitalised and 350 (4%) reconsulted for deterioration. Clinicians prescribed immediate and delayed antibiotics to 2313 (28%) and 771 (9%), respectively. Compared with no antibiotics, there was no clear evidence that antibiotics reduced hospitalisations (immediate antibiotic risk ratio [RR] 0.83, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.47 to 1.45; delayed RR 0.70, 95% CI = 0.26 to 1.90, overall P = 0.44). There was evidence that delayed (rather than immediate) antibiotics reduced reconsultations for deterioration (immediate RR 0.82, 95% CI = 0.65 to 1.07; delayed RR 0.55, 95% CI = 0.34 to 0.88, overall P = 0.024).
Most children presenting with acute cough and respiratory symptoms in primary care are not at risk of hospitalisation, and antibiotics may not reduce the risk. If an antibiotic is considered, a delayed antibiotic prescription may be preferable as it is likely to reduce reconsultation for deterioration.
- BTC (Bristol Trials Centre)
- Adverse outcomes
- Cohort studies
- Primary care
- Respiratory tract infections