Symptoms of the common cold are responsible for many health care visits, and medications to alleviate these symptoms are a significant contributor to the costs incurred. Yet, an upper respiratory tract infection (URI) is a self-limited process. Patient education about appropriate symptomatic therapies along with an understanding of appropriate criteria for seeking care could generate significant cost savings in both medications and physician visits as well as reduce the risks of adverse medication reactions.

Medications for the common cold, although contributing significantly to health care costs, have not been shown to be efficacious and have demonstrated little to no benefit in children. However, even the most benign-appearing and widely used medications have been associated with significant adverse effects, including death.

Studies have documented that a patient’s perception of the efficacy of antibiotics as well as other medications to “cure” the common cold are the primary drivers of many visits to...

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