This guideline covers prescribing antibiotics in primary care to children (aged 3 months and older), young people and adults with self-limiting respiratory tract infections (RTIs). It provides practical strategies for prescribing, including identifying when immediate antibiotics are needed and when to offer a delayed prescription or reassurance alone. It covers identifying who is at risk of serious illness but not investigations or further care for people needing immediate antibiotics.

Recommendations

This guideline includes recommendations on:

Who is it for?

  • Healthcare professionals
  • Commissioners and providers
  • People with self-limiting respiratory tract infections and their families and carers

Is this guideline up to date?

We checked this guideline in February 2014. We identified no major studies that will affect the recommendations in the next 3–5 years.

Next review: January 2019

Guideline development process

How we develop NICE guidelines

This guideline was previously called respiratory tract infections – antibiotic prescribing: prescribing of antibiotics for self-limiting respiratory tract infections in adults and children in primary care.

 

Your responsibility

The recommendations in this guideline represent the view of NICE, arrived at after careful consideration of the evidence available. When exercising their judgement, professionals and practitioners are expected to take this guideline fully into account, alongside the individual needs, preferences and values of their patients or the people using their service. It is not mandatory to apply the recommendations, and the guideline does not override the responsibility to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of the individual, in consultation with them and their families and carers or guardian.

Local commissioners and providers of healthcare have a responsibility to enable the guideline to be applied when individual professionals and people using services wish to use it. They should do so in the context of local and national priorities for funding and developing services, and in light of their duties to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, to advance equality of opportunity and to reduce health inequalities. Nothing in this guideline should be interpreted in a way that would be inconsistent with complying with those duties.


Commissioners and providers have a responsibility to promote an environmentally sustainable health and care system and should assess and reduce the environmental impact of implementing NICE recommendations wherever possible.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)