Most children will suffer between 3 and 8 colds per year, and over half of patients seen for the common cold are given an antimicrobial prescription. Unnecessary antimicrobial therapy can be avoided by recognizing the signs and symptoms that are part of the usual course of these diseases. Controlled trials of antimicrobial treatment of the common cold are reviewed. These trials consistently fail to show that treatment changes the course or outcome. Furthermore, antimicrobial therapy for patients with viral rhinosinusitis is not an effective way to prevent bacterial complications. Mucopurulent rhinitis (thick, opaque, or discolored nasal discharge) frequently accompanies the common cold and is part of the natural course of viral rhinosinusitis. It is not an indication for antimicrobial treatment unless it persists without improvement for >10 to 14 days.

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