NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Area Drug and Therapeutics Committee
Greater Glasgow and Clyde Medicines
Medicines Update

Infections: self management and prevention

A quarter of the population are estimated to visit their GP each year for a respiratory tract infection and this accounts for 60% of antibiotic prescriptions.


Patients should be educated on the typical course of the common self limiting conditions for those who are otherwise healthy. Patients need to understand that they should avoid unnecessary antibiotic use as bacterial resistance can affect them personally with inability to treat infections.  


Ear infections typically last 4 days 

  • 89% of otitis media cases resolve spontaneously
  • Antibiotics greater benefit in children <2 years with bilateral symptoms or in those with ottorrhoea


Sore throat typically lasts 7 day

  • 40% will resolve after 3 days and 90% after 7 days without antibiotics


The common cold typically lasts 10 days


Sinusitis typically lasts 17 days

  • 80% resolve in 14 days with no antibiotics.   
  • Antibiotics do not make a major difference to most people with acute sinusitis in primary care


Cough / bronchitis typically lasts 21 days

  • Antibiotics reduced symptoms by only 1 day
  • As many as 12,255 patients need to be treated with an antibiotic to prevent one admission with pneumonia


Healthcare professionals can educate otherwise healthy patients on the expected duration of self-limiting illness, and provide reassurance when an antibiotic is not required.  


Appropriate advice on prevention and self management includes:



Published 21/02/2017

References available on request.