Antibiotic prescribing for children with upper respiratory tract infection: a Finnish nationwide 7-year observational study

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Abstract

Upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) is a self-limiting viral infection and should not be treated with antibiotics. The aim was to evaluate antibiotic prescriptions for children with uncomplicated URTI in a large nationwide private clinic network between 2014 and 2020. Special focus was given to macrolide prescriptions and costs. The data were obtained from the electronic health records (EHR) of the largest private healthcare company in Finland (with about 250,000 paediatric visits annually across the country). The collected variables included diagnoses, age, visit year, speciality of the doctor, and prescribed antibiotics. The number of uncomplicated URTIs in < 18-year-old children was 156,187 (53.0% in boys). The prescription rate of antibiotics decreased from 18.0% in 2014 to 8.8% in 2020, and that of macrolides from 6.1 to 1.7%. The costs decreased accordingly. Paediatricians prescribed antibiotics less often than general practitioners or ear, nose, and throat specialists.

CONCLUSION: Antibiotic prescriptions for uncomplicated URTIs, especially macrolides, decreased substantially during the 7-year surveillance period; however, 8.8% of children still received unnecessary antibiotics. To further reduce unwarranted antibiotic prescriptions, active interventions are needed that can be performed by applying the available EHR system.

WHAT IS KNOWN: • Upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) is the most common infection in children. Uncomplicated URTI is a self-limiting viral infection, and antibiotic treatment is not warranted.

WHAT IS NEW: • Almost 9% of children with uncomplicated URTIs still received unnecessary antibiotics. Paediatricians prescribed antibiotics less often than general practitioners or ear, nose, and throat specialists. To further reduce unwarranted antibiotic prescriptions, active interventions are needed that can be performed by applying the available EHR system.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Pediatrics
Volume181
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

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