Acute upper airway infections.Br Med Bull. 2002; 61:215-30.BM
Upper respiratory tract infections are common and important. Although rarely fatal, they are a source of significant morbidity and carry a considerable economic burden. Numerous therapies for the common cold have no effect on symptoms or outcome. Complications such as cough are not improved by over-the-counter preparations, while labelling cough alone as a symptom of asthma may result in unnecessary use of inhaled steroid treatment. Clinical presentation of sore throat does not accurately predict whether the infection is viral or bacterial, while throat culture and rapid antigen tests do not significantly change prescribing practice. Antibiotics have only a limited place in the management of recurrent sore throat due to group A beta-haemolytic streptococcal infection. Routine use of antibiotics in upper respiratory infection enhances parent belief in their effectiveness and increases the likelihood of future consultation in primary care for minor self-limiting illness. Respiratory viruses play a major role in the aetiology of acute otitis media (AOM); prevention includes the use of influenza or RSV vaccination, in addition to reducing other risk factors such as early exposure to respiratory viruses in day-care settings and to environmental tobacco smoke. The use of ventilation tubes (grommets) in secretory otitis media (SOM) remains controversial with conflicting data on developmental outcome and quality of life in young children. New conjugate pneumococcal vaccines appear safe in young children and prevent 6-7% of clinically diagnosed AOM.