University study finds people should expect coughs to last longer

Patience may help people with a cough more than antibiotics, researchers at the University of Georgia believe.

A study on how long people expectcoughs to last, compared to the time it actually takes to subside, found that expectationsdiffer significantly. Because many people believe their cough should be gone in about a week, many ask their doctors to prescribe antibiotics if it lasts longer.

Reuters reported the Georgia researchers polled nearly 500 adults and found that many people believe coughs will last only seven to nine days when they are running a low-grade fever and coughing up mucous. However, they compared the results to 19 previous cough studies and found that an average cough lasts nearly 18 days before it subsides.

In addition, using an antibiotic won’t make much difference, but could lead to drug resistance, unnecessary financial expense and an increased risk of side effects, according to the findings, which were published in the Annals of Family Medicine.

“We’re not trying to discourage people from getting care if they feel they need it, but at the same time we want to give them the confidence to give themselves care in situations when it’s appropriate,” said Mark Ebell, M.D., who led the university study.

He added that people should go to a doctor for a cough when they are bringing up blood or are short of breath.

Reuters noted that a second study reported recently that when doctors remind patients of appropriate uses of antibiotics, their requests forprescriptions for respiratory illness drop sharply.

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