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Parents seeking medical care when their child has a respiratory tract infection often ask how long they can expect symptoms to last. Guidance, which often is based on expert opinion, underestimates the duration of otitis media and acute cough, according to a systematic review of 48 studies.

Accurate estimates for how long symptoms of respiratory tract infections last can help parents decide if they should bring their child back to the doctor and when physicians should prescribe antibiotics.

The literature review also sought to determine expected duration of symptoms of sore throat, bronchiolitis, croup, common cold and nonspecific respiratory tract infection. Studies included randomized controlled trials or observational studies of children ages 0 to 18 years with acute respiratory tract infections seen in primary care settings or emergency departments in high-income countries.

Researchers identified the mean number...

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