Intended for healthcare professionals


Green phlegm doesn’t always warrant antibiotics, public is told

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 18 November 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6885
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. 1BMJ

Public Health England has issued guidance to the public on when green phlegm needs to be treated with antibiotics.

Research by the organisation’s primary care unit has found that 40% of people believe that antibiotics speed up recovery from a cough with green phlegm and that only 6% believe that antibiotics are beneficial when the phlegm is clear.1

Advice from the unit and the Royal College of General Practitioners says that in otherwise healthy people who don’t smoke and who have no underlying health problems an acute cough with phlegm of any colour is not necessarily a sign of infection and that any small possible benefit from …

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