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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Pulmonary Medicine 1/2015

How long do the Hong Kong Chinese expect their URTI to last? – Effects on antibiotic use

BMC Pulmonary Medicine > Ausgabe 1/2015
Tai Pong Lam, Kwok Fai Lam, Yuk Tsan Wun, Kai Sing Sun
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

All authors participated in the design of the study. TP Lam, YT Wun and KF Lam wrote the protocol. TP Lam and KS Sun coordinated the study. KF Lam undertook the statistical analysis. TP Lam and KS Sun wrote the first draft. All authors participated in the drafting and approval of the final version of the manuscript.



Recent literature shows that there is a large mismatch between the US patients’ expected duration of acute cough illness and the actual duration. It has been suggested that this discrepancy may lead to antibiotic misuse. Currently, there is limited relevant information for the Chinese. This study aims to investigate the duration that Hong Kong Chinese expect their upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) to last and its possible association with antibiotic use.


A cross-sectional telephone questionnaire survey with 2,471 adult respondents was conducted in Hong Kong between November and December of 2010. The expected URTI duration of the respondents and their antibiotic use behaviors were analyzed. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to adjust for the effects of demographic factors including age, gender, education and income.


Excluding 80 uncertain responses, 544 (23.1%) respondents expected their URTI to last for 1–3 days in general, 613 (25.5%) for 4–6 days, 1168 (48.6%) for 1–2 weeks, and 66 (2.7%) for > 2 weeks. The mean of expected duration was 7.4 (SD:4.2) days. Respondents expecting 1–3 days duration were least likely to ask for and be treated with antibiotics. The proportion of respondents being treated with antibiotics for the last URTI increased from 10% for the 1–3 days group to 23% for the > 2 weeks group (χ2 = 19.086, P < 0.001). The effect of expected duration remained significant (P = 0.0188) after adjusting for the effects of demographic factors.


The Hong Kong Chinese expect their URTI to last for about 7 days on average. Different from the notion that underestimation of the actual duration would lead to antibiotic misuse, this study shows that patients expecting a longer duration have a doubled chance to be treated with antibiotics.
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