‘Fever means antibiotic’ the Omani public’s attitudes to the use of antibiotics for treating the common cold


Muna A Al-Juma, Claire Anderson, Matthew J Boyd


School of Pharmacy, Division of Pharmacy Practice and Policy, University of Nottingham, University Park, East Drive, NG7 2RD, UK



Antimicrobial resistance is a worldwide concern, and the need to reserve the effectiveness of antibiotics in therapy is universally recognised. The irrational use of antibiotics to treat common viral infections is one of the factors contributing to antimicrobial resistance. In depth exploration of the public’s attitudes towards the use of antibiotics for treating the common cold will improve understanding of the factors that cause the indiscriminate use of antibiotics, and could have an impact on antimicrobial resistance.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with individuals recruited from public places, within the governorate of Muscat, Oman. The interviews explored public perceptions about self-care of minor ailments. The data were analysed by applying the principles of constructivist grounded theory.


Twenty-one participants were interviewed. Emerging themes included attitude to medicines in general, comprising specifically the use of antibiotics. Some participants indicated that it was necessary to take antibiotics for conditions associated with fever or severe sore throats. They believed that fever and inflammation are always a sign of bacterial infection that requires antibiotics. Participants did not understand the concept of bacterial resistance but thought that overuse of antibiotics affected their immunity to colds and sore throats. Access to antibiotics for treating the common cold is highly influenced by physicians’ prescribing behaviours, and there was a clear variance perceived between the private and public primary health sectors with regards to antibiotic prescribing practice.


Due to misunderstanding, people believe that antibiotics are needed to treat colds and sore throats. These findings suggest there is a need for educational intervention and better enforcement of clinical guidelines and prescribing policies in Oman.

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