THE winter may be peak season for coughs and colds but there is no point in taking antibiotics to shift them, experts say.
The largest randomised placebo-controlled trial of antibiotics for acute respiratory infections has shown that they are no more effective than taking a sugar pill.
Even older patients given the drugs did not recover more quickly or have fewer symptoms than those who waited for the illness to run its course.
The international study run in 12 European countries included more than 2,000 adults with chest infections who were randomly assigned to receive either amoxicillin, the commonest antibiotic prescribed by GPs, or a placebo.
After taking the drugs three times a day for seven days, the two groups were assessed.
Little difference was found in either severity or duration of symptoms, even among patients aged over 60.
Those taking the antibiotics reported more side effects including rashes, nausea and diarrhoea.