When Patients Ask For Antibiotics to Treat Viral Infections

Patients Ask for AntibioticsDuring this cold and flu season it's especially important to remind your patients that using antibiotics for viral infections will not make them feel better. Effective communication is more important than an antibiotic for patient satisfaction.

Tips to Help Educate
Your Patients

  • Start the educational process in the waiting room. Provide information to help parents understand when the risks of using antibiotics outweigh the benefits. Informational CDs, posters, other materials and resources are available for your use from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Identify and validate patient concerns. Spend time answering questions and offer a contingency plan if symptoms worsen.
  • Recommend specific symptomatic therapy such as fluids, throat lozenges or cool-mist vaporizer.
  • Encourage your patients and staff to wash their hands properly and often. This will reduce the chance of spreading infection — which helps reduce the need for antibiotics.

Remind your patients when they are taking antibiotics to do so exactly as prescribed and complete the full course of medication. Patients should not hoard pills for later use or share them with others.

Please consult our Clinical Practice Guidelines on antibiotic resistance for additional information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics also have useful information.

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