Cough and Cold Antibiotics

Antibiotics were not helpful for kids who had a cough because of the common cold

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) When your child has a cough, getting an antibiotic from a doctor may seem like a good idea. But a cough suppressant may be a better choice.

A recent study found kids with a cough due to the common cold were not helped by antibiotics.

These researchers say that taking a cough suppressant medication was most helpful for clearing up the cough.

Antibiotics are best reserved for illnesses caused by a bacterial infection.

"Ask your pharmacist about the best OTC cough medicine."

Researchers, led by Alessandro Zanasi, MD, at the University of Bologna, looked at the treatment given to 305 children who had a cough due to the common cold.

They looked at what types of medicine were prescribed and how quickly the children recovered.

Of the kids in the study, 89 got antibiotics only and 123 kids got a cough suppressant. Another 38 got antibiotics and a cough suppressant.

They found that kids getting a cough suppressant were more likely to see their cough go away.

Antibiotics alone were not helpful. Getting antibiotics and a cough suppressant together was not better than a cough suppressant alone at speeding up recovery.

The researchers also looked at different types of cough suppressants to see which might be best for helping kids get over their cough.

They compared drugs like codeine and levodropropizine, both prescription cough medicines

Specifically, levodropropizine was used by the kids in the study that recovered the fastest.

Levodropropizine is not approved for use in the US. It is approved in a number of countries in South America, Europe and Asia. It is a peripherally acting cough suppressant - there is not a US approved equivalent of this drug.

The authors concluded, “Antibiotics are not generally useful for treating acute cough caused by simple “head colds”, both alone and in association with antitussive drugs [cough suppressants].”

In a recent press release, Dr. DeBlasio, one of the authors, said, “Using antibiotics as a treatment for cough without suspected infection is unnecessary and can be harmful.”

“Repeated use of antibiotics, especially when they are ineffective, can lead to adverse allergic reactions or a resistance to the medications."

Antibiotics can be very helpful for bacterial infections. But they are not effective against viruses like the common cold.

This study was presented on Wednesday, October 24 at CHEST 2012, the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians.

Because this study was presented at conference, it may not have had the chance to be reviewed for accuracy by other experts in the field.

Two of the presenters on this study report affiliations with Dompe Spa, a pharmaceutical company that makes levodropropizine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 1, 2012
Last Updated:
November 5, 2012