PURPOSE Primary care visits for children with acute respiratory infections frequently result in antibiotic prescriptions, although antibiotics have limited benefits for common acute respiratory infections and can cause harms, including antibiotic resistance. Parental demands are often blamed for antibiotic prescription. We aimed to explore parents' beliefs about antibiotic necessity, quantify their expectations of antibiotic benefit, and report experiences of other management options and exposure to and preferences for shared decision making.
METHODS We conducted computer-assisted telephone interviews in an Australia-wide community sample of primary caregivers, hereafter referred to as parents, of children aged 1 to 12 years, using random digit dialing of household landline telephones.
RESULTS Of the 14,505 telephone numbers called, 10,340 were eligible numbers; 589 potentially eligible parents were reached, of whom 401 were interviewed. Most believed antibiotics provide benefits for common acute respiratory infections, especially for acute otitis media (92%), although not using them, particularly for acute cough and sore throat, was sometimes acceptable. Parents grossly overestimated the mean benefit of antibiotics on illness symptom duration by 5 to 10 times, and believed they reduce the likelihood of complications. The majority, 78%, recognized antibiotics may cause harm. Recalling the most recent relevant doctor visit, 44% of parents reported at least some discussion about why antibiotics might be used; shared decision making about antibiotic use was inconsistent, while 75% wanted more involvement in future decisions.
CONCLUSIONS Some parents have misperceptions about antibiotic use for acute respiratory infections, highlighting the need for improved communication during visits, including shared decision making to address overoptimistic expectations of antibiotics. Such communication should be one of several strategies that is used to reduce antibiotic use.