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Old habits and the pleadings of sick patients continue to move physicians to prescribe antibiotics for patients who don’t actually need them, according to a new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Physicians. Both are urging physicians to employ antibiotics sparingly during cold and flu season. Antibiotics are prescribed at more than 100 million adult ambulatory care visits every year—including visits to urgent care—but only about half of those are necessary or appropriate. Antibiotic overuse contributes to the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections; in the U.S., there are 2 million antibiotic-resistant illnesses and 23,000 related deaths each year, costing the healthcare system some $30 billion. The new guidance says antibiotics should be reserved for patients with symptoms lasting more than 10 days, those who develop severe symptoms or high fever (above 39°C, or 102.2°F), or those with nasal discharge or facial pain lasting three consecutive days.

CDC, ACP Warn Against Wayward Antibiotic Prescribing