In analyses of more than 15.5 million hospitalizations and 5.5 million outpatient visits per year over 8 years, this trend was particularly strong between 1998 and 2002.
The study, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, examined the relationship between antibiotic prescribing for acute bronchitis and cough with hospital admissions for respiratory infections in the USA.
"An unintended consequence of a strategy to decrease antibiotic resistance appears to be a practice that limits the use of antibiotics in cases where such drugs would be beneficial," said Professor Arch Mainous from the Medical University of South Carolina.
"There are good reasons to focus on reducing antibiotic resistance in the community; however, the focus needs to be on encouraging the judicious and appropriate use of antibiotic prescriptions and not a blanket limit on the use of antibiotics.
"The increase in hospital admissions for respiratory illness in the US is consistent with similar findings in Britain," he said.
Professor Mainous said further research on ecological and individual level analyses was urgently needed.
"The association between antibiotic prescribing and hospital admissions needs to be more closely understood to assist any examination of the appropriateness of current physician practice," he said.