Age and gender of GP influences URTI treatment

Management of respiratory tract infections in primary care varies according to the age and sex of the general practitioner, a new study shows.

Using data from the ongoing BEACH study the researchers from Monash University found that for children aged under 5 years upper respiratory tract infections were managed 18.6 times per 100 GP patient encounters, bronchitis/bronchiolitis 4.2 times, acute tonsillitis 2.7 times, and pneumonia 0.6 times per 100 encounters.

Antibiotics were prescribed most frequently for tonsillitis and least frequently for URTI.

Source: MJA: Mean rate (95% CI) of treatment options recorded per 100 specified respiratory problems treated in general practice among children younger than 5 years, 2007–2012

 Male GPs prescribed antibiotics for URTI significantly more often than female GPs, while older GPs prescribed antibiotics for URTI more often than younger GPs, the study published in the MJA found.

The researchers  said antibiotics were often prescribed to children unnecessarily as a result of parental pressure, lack of medical knowledge about respiratory tract infections and diagnostic uncertainty in children.

While URTIs had the lowest antibiotic prescription rate of the four RTIs in the study, they had the highest rate of OTC medications advised, the researchers said.

“Although physicians, researchers and paediatricians agree that common cold treatments and remedies do not reduce illness duration and offer little benefit, GPs might still advise OTC medications (rather than prescribe antibiotics) to address some parents’ expectations that medication will cure the common cold,” they said.


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