Upper respiratory tract infections account for millions of visits to family physicians each year in the United States. Although warranted in some cases, antibiotics are greatly overused. This article outlines the guidelines and indications for appropriate antibiotic use for common upper respiratory infections. Early antibiotic treatment may be indicated in patients with acute otitis media, group A beta-hemolytic streptococcal pharyngitis, epiglottitis, or bronchitis caused by pertussis. Persistent cases of rhinosinusitis may necessitate the use of antibiotics if symptoms persist beyond a period of observation. Antibiotics should not be considered in patients with the common cold or laryngitis. Judicious, evidence-based use of antibiotics will help contain costs and prevent adverse effects and drug resistance.