Background: Upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) are a common presentation in general practice and are linked to high rates of inappropriate antibiotic prescription. There is limited information about the trajectory of patients with this condition who have been prescribed antibiotics.

Objective: To document the symptom profile of patients receiving antibiotics for URTIs in Australian general practice using smartphone technology and online surveys.

Methods: In total, 8218 patients received antibiotics after attending one of the 32 general practice clinics in Australia from June to October 2017: 4089 were identified as URTI presentations and were the cohort studied. Patients completed the Wisconsin Upper Respiratory Symptom Survey (WURSS-24) 3 and 7 days after visiting their general practitioner (GP).

Results: Six hundred fourteen URTI-specific patients responded to at least one symptom survey (RR 15%). The majority of patients reported moderate to mild symptoms at 72 hours [median global symptom severity score 37 (IQR 19, 59)] post-GP visit which reduced to very mild symptoms or not sick by day 7 [11 (IQR 4, 27)]. Patients receiving antibiotics for URTI reported the same level of symptom severity as patients in previous studies receiving no treatment.

Conclusions: The recovery of most patients within days of receiving antibiotics for URTI mimics the trajectory of patients with viral URTIs without treatment. Antibiotics did not appear to hasten recovery. Monitoring of patients in this context using smart phone technology is feasible but limited by modest response rates.


antibiotics, antimicrobial stewardship, infectious diseases, primary care, respiratory diseases, upper respiratory infections

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