Antibiotics for respiratory tract infections

Find reliable independent health and treatment information about antibiotics for respiratory tract infections (RTIs) written by Australian experts. This includes resources for consumers and health professionals.

About antibiotics for RTIs

Antibiotics are medicines used to treat infections or diseases caused by bacteria, and they have saved millions of lives since they were first developed in the 1930s.

There are many different types of antibiotics for respiratory tract infections (e.g. pneumonia and whooping cough). The best antibiotic for your infection will depend on what infection you have and the type of bacteria causing it. Find out more about how antibiotics work and their possible side effects.

Many common respiratory tract infections (RTIs) — such as colds and flu — are caused by viruses, so antibiotics are of no use. Find out more about viruses and bacteria and why antibiotics don’t kill viruses.

If you are prescribed antibiotics, it is important that you follow your health professional’s advice on when, how, and for how long to take them. Find out more about how to take your antibiotics, if alcohol will affect your antibiotics, and if antibiotics can affect your contraceptive.

Using antibiotics when you don’t need them can contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance. Find out more about what antibiotic resistance is and what you can do to prevent it.

Find out more

Join the fight against antibiotic resistance

NPS MedicineWise antibiotic resistance pledge badge

The development of antibiotics was one of the most important advances of medicine. Now, because of the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, bacterial infections that were once easily cured with antibiotics are becoming harder to treat.

This is due to antibiotic resistance. It has been identified by the WHO as one of the greatest threats to human health today.

Take the pledge now 

For health professionals  

Health professionals are in a prime position to address the problem of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance can be minimised by only prescribing an antibiotic:1

  • when benefits to the patient are likely to be substantial
  • of the narrowest spectrum to treat the likely pathogen
  • at the appropriate dose and for the appropriate duration.

Antibiotic resistance in common pathogens causing RTIs has increased over the past 20 years in Australia.2 Stretococcus pneumoniae resistance to macrolide antibiotics has increased from 8.7% in 1994 to 20.4% in 2007, and this trend continues.3 Antibiotic use not only increases antibiotic resistance at a population level but also at an individual level.2,4

Our CPD activities

Consolidate your knowledge on antibiotics for RTIs, brush-up on current guidelines and practices, and earn CPD points through our learning activities

For your patients

Use the following tools and resources in your patient consultations.

Clinical information

The information below is intended for health professionals. It uses the latest guidelines and evidence to help health professionals further understand the issues around antibiotic resistance and respiratory tract infections. It also includes tools and resources to help educate patients and carers.

Other tools and resources

Antibiotic resistance is everyone's problem

NPS MedicineWise antibiotic resistance pledge badge

Antibiotic resistance has been identified by the WHO as one of the greatest threats to human health today.

If you are prescribing, dispensing or working with people taking antibiotics, take the pledge and help reduce the threat of antibiotic resistance.

Take the Health Professional resistance fighter pledge 
References
  1. Simpson SA, Wood F, Butler CC. General practitioners' perceptions of antimicrobial resistance: a qualitative study. J Antimicrob Chemother 2007;59:292–6. [Pubmed]
  2. Australian Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (AGAR). AGAR Surveys: schedule and overview. 2011. [Online] (accessed 15 May 2012).
  3. Australian Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (AGAR). Streptococcus pneumoniae survey. 2007 Antibiotic susceptibility report. 2007. [Online] (accessed 15 May 2012).
  4. Pray L. Antibiotic R&D: resolving the paradox between unmet medical need and commercial incentive. Cambridge Healthtech Institute, (Insight Pharma Reports). Needham, MA, 2008.

Related information - antibiotics for RTIs

Audience:
       

(Translated resource)
05 Apr 2016 抗生素對感冒和流感沒有幫助,因為這些都是由病毒引起的。詳細瞭解於治療感冒和流感而不用抗生素
(Translated resource)
05 Apr 2016 抗生素對感冒和流感沒有幫助,因為這些都是由病毒引起的。詳細瞭解於治療感冒和流感而不用抗生素
(Translated resource)
23 Mar 2016 抗生素对感冒和流感没有帮助,因为这些都是由病毒引起的。详细了解于治疗感冒和流感而不用抗生素
(Translated resource)
23 Mar 2016 抗生素对感冒和流感没有帮助,因为这些都是由病毒引起的。详细了解于治疗感冒和流感而不用抗生素
(Translated resource)
29 Feb 2016 إن المضادات الحيوية لا تساعد في حالة نزلات البرد والإنفلونزا لأنها تنجم عن فيروسات. اعرف المزيد عن معالجة نزلات البرد والإنفلونزا بدون مضادات حيوية
(Translated resource)
29 Feb 2016 إن المضادات الحيوية لا تساعد في حالة نزلات البرد والإنفلونزا لأنها تنجم عن فيروسات. اعرف المزيد عن معالجة نزلات البرد والإنفلونزا بدون مضادات حيوية
(Medicine)
23 Feb 2016 Antibiotics do not help colds and flu, as these are caused by viruses. Find out more about treating colds and flu without antibiotics in English, Arabic and Chinese.
(Media release)
14 Aug 2014 With news this week that winter flu season is in full swing, NPS MedicineWise is reminding Australians that for most people, resting and treating the symptoms is the best course of action when you have a cold or flu — and that’s because flu is caused by viruses, not bacteria, so antibiotics won’t help.
(Health professional development)
04 Jul 2014 Free continuing professional development activities on antibiotics for health professionals
For health professionals (Health professional publication)
02 Jul 2014 The latest WHO report signals an end to thinking about antibiotic resistance as a challenge for the future. Resistance to some of our most powerful antibiotics is happening right now. Discover which microbes are causing the greatest threat to public health in Australia and around the world. Learn steps to promoting antimicrobial stewardship and the tools to share it with your patients.