One of the proposed reasons for overuse of antibiotics in "colds" is that there is a mismatch between what patients expect and how long the average "cold" actually lasts.Almost 500 Georgia adults were randomly called and asked how long they thought their average cold with a cough lasted. The researchers then did a review of several published studies of healthy adults with "colds" who were not treated with antibiotics.WHAT DID THEY FIND?The published studies showed that the average duration of cough is actually 17 days! The persons in the telephone survey felt that their cough with colds lasted only 5 to 7 days. Women expected a longer duration of cough than men.WHAT DOES IT MEAN?If your cough is still keeping you awake 7-10 days after your upper respiratory infection began and you believe you should be well, you are likely to seek out your physician and plead for antibiotics. You remember that: 1) your physician knows that antibiotics do not cure "colds, but that 2) your physician wants to please you.TAKE HOME• The average cough associated with a cold may last 2 1/2 weeks.• Antibiotics do not shorten the duration of a cold, but frequently give you diarrhea.• A teaspoon or two of honey works as well or better than most cough syrups.--------------------------------Dr. Mohler has practiced family medicine in Grand Junction for 38 years. He has a particular interest in pharmaceutical education. Phil works part-time for both Primary Care Partners and Rocky Mountain Health Plans.