The aim of this study was to evaluate the antibiotic prescription rates for upper respiratory tract infections (uRTIs) by primary care physicians in Samsun, Turkey. Data were obtained from the records of 2083 visits to 8 primary care areas. Trained research students were stationed on site at each of the 8 primary care areas during the study period. Clinical features of patients were documented on a standardized form. Patients who had acute pharyngitis, acute sinusitis, acute otitis media (AOM) and common cold were included in the study. This survey was conducted between June 1, 1999 and July 1, 1999. A total of 2083 office visits were recorded and 502 (24.1%) of the patients had uRTIs. Physicians approached these conditions empirically, with only 2.9% of patients having a diagnostic test at initial examination. Antibiotics were prescribed for 461 patients (91.8%) with uRTIs (common cold: 41.9%, acute pharyngitis: 94.7%, acute sinusitis: 94.1% and AOM: 100%). 11.5% of the antibiotic prescriptions were inconsistent with current recommendations derived from the literature. Inadequate antibiotic prescribing was documented in 29.7% of antibiotic prescriptions. Errors were frequent in relation to dosage, dosage interval and duration of therapy. Overuse of antibiotics is widespread in our geographic area. Both administrative and educational intervention should be implemented to improve antibotic prescribing habits at the primary health care level to reduce the unnecessary use of antimicrobial agents.