This article introduces a set of principles to define judicious antimicrobial use for five conditions that account for the majority of outpatient antimicrobial use in the United States. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics indicate that in recent years, approximately three fourths of all outpatient antibiotics have been prescribed for otitis media, sinusitis, bronchitis, pharyngitis, or nonspecific upper respiratory tract infection.1 Antimicrobial drug use rates are highest for children1 ; therefore, the pediatric age group represents the focus for the present guidelines. The evidence-based principles presented here are focused on situations in which antimicrobial therapy could be curtailed without compromising patient care. They are not formulated as comprehensive management strategies. For most upper respiratory infections that require antimicrobial treatment, there are several appropriate oral agents from which to choose. Although the general principles of selecting narrow-spectrum agents with the fewest side effects and lowest cost are important, the principles that follow include few specific antibiotic selection recommendations.

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