Antibiotics may be prophylactic, empirical or targeted against a known organism.
Prolonged duration of antibiotics is associated with: an increased risk of adverse reactions, Clostridium difficile infection, candidiasis, selection of antibiotic resistant organisms as well as unnecessary cost. Therefore the shortest possible duration of therapy should be used. For the majority of infections treatment should not exceed 7 days.
The most appropriate duration of therapy may be difficult to identify in some circumstances. In these instances treatment duration must be individualised for the patient on the basis of clinical, microbiological or radiological parameters. If ongoing treatment is required a date for review should be identified.
Patients should be advised that using antibiotics when they don’t need them can contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance. They should be advised, when the antibiotic is prescribed and dispensed, when the antibiotic is to finish, or the date to be reviewed.