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What do Family Practitioners and Medical Assistants do Having a Cold?

DOI: 10.3238/zfa.2016.0339-0345

What do Family Practitioners and Medical Assistants do Having a Cold?

german translation / full article

Nils Schneider, Olaf Krause, Ulrike Junius-Walker, Michael Hartung

Keywords: common cold family practitioner medical assistant self-treatment guideline

Background: Family practitioners (FP) recommend different medicinal and non-medicinal treatment measures to their patients for relieving the symptoms of a common cold. Yet it is unknown, which measures are taken by FP and medical assistants (MA) themselves in a common cold, and whether they take place in conformity with guidelines.

Methods: Survey of physicians and MA who were participants of the day of family medicine at the Hannover Medical School. Semi-standardized questionnaires with questions about frequency, severity and symptoms as well as medicinal (e.g. mono and mixed preparations or antibiotics) and non-medicinal (e.g. increased fluid intake) measures based on the latter experienced common cold.

Results: Out of 168 participants (80 physicians and 88 MA) 64 physicians (50 % female, median age 49 years, one student in elective period) and 60 MA (97 % female, median age 37 years) took part in the survey. The physicians took a median of 2 and the MA a median of 3 non-medicinal measures. An increased fluid intake (physicians 61 %; MA 60 %), physical conservation (physicians 61 %; MA 50 %), herbal teas (physicians 33 %; MAs 35 %) and steam inhalation (physicians 28 %; MA 35 %) were mentioned in particular. Both groups took a median of 2 medicinal measures. Most frequently was the application of decongestant nasal sprays (physicians 44 %; MA 27 %) as well as the intake of ibuprofen (physicians 36 %; MA 40 %) or paracetamol (physicians 27 %; MA 23 %). Aspirin complex was the commonest medicinal mixed preparation mentioned (physicians 8 %; MA 27 %). Antibiotics were used more often by MA (20 % vs. 9 %). Main reason for an antibiotic in both groups was coughing with yellowish/greenish expectoration.

Conclusions: As self-treatment in common colds, physicians and MA use a variety of medicinal and non-medicinal measures, which are recommended as well in the guideline No. 11 of the German College of Family Practitioners (DEGAM). Main reason for an antibiotic was a cough with yellowish/greenish expectoration, although this is clearly discrepant to the guideline’s recommendation.


(State: 09.01.2017)

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