Does Your Cough Really Need an Antibiotic?

Patients who cough up green and yellow phlegm are regularly prescribed more antibiotics than patients who cough up clear phlegm. That’s because doctors have historically assumed colored phlegm was more likely to indicate a bacterial infection.

New research by the School of Medicine at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom suggests that assumption is wrong. A study of more than 3,000 patients in 13 European countries found that antibiotic treatment did not appear to speed up recovery of coughs.

Professor Chris Butler, who led the study, said the findings suggest that doctors are unnecessarily overprescribing antibiotics. Most coughs will resolve on their own, no matter what color the phlegm.

“In fact, antibiotic prescribing in this situation simply unnecessarily exposes people to side effects from antibiotics, undermines future self care, and drives up antibiotic resistance,” Professor Butler told the BBC.

Antibiotics can save lives, he added, but we need to be careful only to use them when there is a clear benefit.

Plus: Natural Ways to Suppress a Cough

Sources: BBC, ScienceNews,,,

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.


Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.