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To determine whether an educational intervention aimed at parents leads to fewer antibiotic prescriptions for their children.Placebo-controlled, randomized controlled trial.Offices of primary care pediatricians who are members of a regional practice-based research network.Healthy children younger than 24 months old enrolled at the time of an office visit.Parents of study children were randomized to receive either a pamphlet and videotape (featuring one of their child's pediatricians) promoting the judicious use of antibiotics (intervention group) or brochures about injury prevention (control group). A total of 499 eligible children were enrolled, and data on outpatient visits during a 12-month observation period were collected.We compared the number of visits for upper respiratory tract infections (URIs), number of diagnoses and antibiotic prescriptions for otitis media and/or sinusitis and total number of antibiotics per patient among children in the intervention and control groups using Poisson regression analysis, adjusted for clustering into different practices.Data on 4924 visits were reviewed; 28.8% of these visits were because of URI symptoms. The mean number of visits per study patient for URI symptoms was 2.8. Including all visits, the mean number of diagnoses of otitis media in study children was 2.1, mean number of diagnoses of otitis media and/or sinusitis was 2.3 and mean number of antibiotic prescriptions was 2.4; there were no significant differences between children in the intervention and control groups for any of these outcomes. Overall physicians prescribed 1 or more antibiotics during 45.9% of visits for a chief complaint of URI symptoms; 92% of antibiotic usage in children presenting with URI symptoms was for a diagnosis of otitis media and/or sinusitis.An educational intervention aimed at parents did not result in a decrease in the number of antibiotic prescriptions in their children. The use of antibiotics among children with URI symptoms was common; other interventions promoting the judicious use of these medications are needed.