In children, antibiotics are not effective in treating cough due to the common cold, states recent research.
The study found that when children with acute cough were treated with either antitussive medication or antibiotics, antibiotics alone showed a lower percentage of cough resolution.
"In our experience, antibiotics are often prescribed by the general practitioner to treat cough in children, many times to pacify parents," said lead study author Francesco de Blasio, MD, FCCP, Clinic Center Private Hospital, Naples, Italy.
"However, antibiotics show very little effectiveness at treating cough due to your average head cold," he revealed.
To understand how antibiotics were being used in a clinical pediatric setting, Dr. de Blasio and colleagues from the University of Bologna and Dompe SPA in Italy observed the treatment and outcomes of 305 children who required pediatric consultation due to acute cough from the common cold.
Of the children, 89 received antibiotics only, while 38 received a combination of antibiotics and antitussives; central (codeine and cloperastine) in 16 cases, and peripheral (levodropropizine) in 22 children. Forty-four and 79 children received only central or peripheral antitussives, respectively, without antibiotics; 55 children did not receive medication.
Observational results showed no difference in percentage of cough resolution between children treated with antitussive alone vs children receiving a combination of antibiotics and antitussives.
On the contrary, children treated with antibiotics only had a lower percentage of cough resolution than children treated with antitussive only. Furthermore, the use of the peripheral antitussive levodropropizine demonstrated a significant beneficial effect in terms of cough resolution compared with centrally acting antitussive drugs.
"Few drugs are effective as cough suppressants, and antibiotics are no more effective in relieving cough than the use of no medication. However, peripheral antitussives, such as levodropropizine, appear to be the best option at relieving cough," he said.
Although antibiotics may not be an effective therapy for cough, they can be useful in treating underlying infections that may produce cough, noted Dr. de Blasio.
But he warned that antibiotics should not be overuse indicating that repeated use of it, especially when they are ineffective, can lead to adverse allergic reactions or a resistance to the medications.
The study was presented at CHEST 2012, the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians.