Relevant BNF section: 5.1
In general practice, the term 'chest infection' covers a wide variety of clinical presentations, ranging from cough without sputum or chest signs, to an illness characterised by expectoration of mucopurulent sputum, fever, general malaise, dyspnoea, and diffuse or focal signs in the chest.1,2 While many chest infections seen by GPs are self-limiting illnesses, a minority - perhaps 5% of all lower respiratory infections - are pneumonias.3 Community-acquired pneumonia causes substantial morbidity and risk to life, and prompt antibiotic treatment is essential when it is suspected.4,5 In practice, most patients seen in general practice with a diagnosis of chest infection are given an antibiotic, and overprescribing has long been a source of concern.6,7 We discuss the role of antibiotics for adults with suspected chest infection who present to the GP.
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