Do antibiotics affect the quality of life of patients with upper respiratory tract illnesses?: it might depend on one's luck

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Upper respiratory tract illnesses (URTI) are known to cause measurable decline in health-related quality of life (HRQL). We studied whether antibiotics impacted patients' HRQL after obtaining medical care for URTI.


Adults seeking care for URTI at a family medicine office were eligible for this study. Decisions to prescribe antibiotics were left to their physicians. Subjects completed the Quality of Well-Being questionnaire on enrolment and on days 3, 7, 14 and 28. Analysis of HRQL was undertaken using repeated measures ANOVA and ANCOVA.


Seventy-three patients (mean age 35.8 years) were studied. Thirty-six of the subjects (50.7%) received prescriptions for antibiotics from their physicians at the index visit. By day 28, 78.4% of the subjects in the antibiotic group and 77.8% of the other group reported cure (p = 0.95). Receiving a prescription for an antibiotic at the initial visit did not influence subsequent HRQL reported by subjects (p = 0.98). However, when subjects receiving antibiotics were subgrouped by whether they reported an antibiotic adverse event we found significant differences in final HRQL. Subjects receiving antibiotics but not experiencing adverse events reported higher HRQL by day 28 than did subjects receiving an antibiotic but also reporting adverse events and subjects not receiving any antibiotics (p = 0.02).


Providing patients experiencing URTIs with prescriptions for antibiotics does not, on average, positively impact HRQL over the following 28 days. However, the subgroup of patients who receive antibiotics and do not experience an adverse event may come out ahead.

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