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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    When does a cough need antibiotics?

    My son has been coughing for 4 days with a low grade fever. It started out as a dry cough but it is now a wet, mucous cough.
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  • Dr Teresa Wong

    GP (General Practitioner)

    I love medicine! My special interest areas are mental health, pain management, pediatrics and musculoskeletal injuries. Having said that there is no area in medicine … View Profile

    Most coughs and colds are viral in origin meaning that antibiotics won't really help as they only treat bacterial infections, However sometimes if the cold continues bacteria can also breed and complicate things.
    We as doctors can never really know if this has occured although as a rule of thumb if the mucous has become coloured (green, yellow, grey) we tend to assume it's bacterial and prescribe antibiotics. We try hard to avoid this because as a community we have used antibiotics so much that the bacteria are becoming resistant to them.
    Having said all of that if your beautiful son is trending symptomatically downwards then I would consider giving him antibiotics at this point with other measures depending on his age.

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