This year’s cough and cold season is in bloom. Sometimes those runny noses and cough get us so frustrated that we ask our GPs for antibiotics. However, as they say, too much of a good thing is not such a good thing, and this is true about antibiotics too. 

Check out: Coughs Fool Patients into Unnecessary Requests for Antibiotics 





  • hacking cough – a short, dry, frequent cough
  • get over an illness – recover from it
  • recourse – a source of help in a difficult situation
  • linger – stay in a place longer than necessary, typically because of a reluctance to leave
  • fool (verb) – trick or deceive (someone)
  • randomize – employ random selection or sampling in (an experiment or procedure)
  • ailment – an illness, typically a minor one
  • mismatch – discrepancy
  • coincidence – a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection
  • give in – yield
  • sputum – a mixture of saliva and mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract, typically as a result of infection or other disease and often examined microscopically to aid medical diagnosis
  • efficacy – the ability to produce a desired or intended result


Think about it

Answer the questions below. 

  • What practice can increase drug resistance across many bacteria strains and why?
  • Do people who take antibiotics generally cough for a shorter period of time than the ones who don’t?
  • How long do people think a typical cough-based illness lasts? What does the research say about it?
  • Why does the author say that the timing of prescribing antibiotics is troublesome?
  • When is it really advisable to consult a doctor?


Practice makes perfect

Replace the phrases in bold with expressions from the original text.

  • No one wants a prolonged short, dry, frequent cough.
  • The problem with that solution, however, is that antibiotics are usually pointless against typical respiratory infections that trigger coughs.
  • Most often coughs and associated infections get less severe themselves.
  • Simply put, [the expected duration of a cough-based illness is] far less than the average duration of these types of ailments.
  • Doctors often go along with demands from patients to prescribe “something” for their illness.


Fill in the blank spaces with the missing words. Use ONE word per blank space.

Doctors often give ______ to pressure from patients to prescribe “something” ______ their illness. “Patients should ______ told that it is normal ______ still be coughing two or even three weeks ______ onset, and that they should only seek care if they are worsening or if an alarm symptom, ______ as high fever, bloody or rusty sputum, or shortness ______ breath, occurs,” Ebell and his colleagues wrote. Otherwise, a thoughtless “quick-fix” Rx is likely to just “increase ______ belief in their efficacy, creating the potential for a cycle ______ expectation and prescription,” the researchers noted. And that is not good for anyone’s health.


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