Cold and Flu

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Many customers can have misconceptions about the duration of a cold or flu1

Many customers underestimate the duration of a cold or flu. The worst cold & flu symptoms should be over in 4-5 days but complete recovery can take up to 10 days, and sometimes longer1.

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Adults experience an average of 2-4 colds a year2

  • The common cold is the conventional term used to describe a mild, self-limited, viral, upper respiratory tract infection.
  • It is characterised by nasal stuffiness and discharge, sneezing, sore throat and cough.
  • The worst cold & flu symptoms should be over in 4-5 days but complete recovery from a cold or flu can take up to 10 days, and sometimes longer1.
  • There is no cure for the common cold, and no medication is licensed to shorten the duration of infection2.  Treatment is therefore aimed at symptomatic relief.
  • The Common Cold is a self-treatable condition and advice can be sought from pharmacists to help reduce pressure on local GP services.
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms of the common cold

    • Congestioncaused by an immune response to the cold virus leading to swelling of nasal blood vessels3.
    • Rhinorrhoea (runny nose)due to parasympathetic activity stimulating submucosal glands of the nasal mucosa to produce excessive nasal secretions4.
    • Sneezing,which often accompanies rhinorrhoea and is thought to occur due to the stimulation of sensory nerve endings in the mucous membrane
    • Sinus pressure,caused by a swelling of the sinuses which may lead to a blocked nose, pain and tenderness5.
    • Fever6
    • Chills6
    • Sore throat6
    • Headache6
  • When to refer

    When to refer customers with a cold or flu symptoms to the GP

    It is important to highlight to customers that you are able to offer cold & flu advice and product recommendations to help reduce the number of unnecessary GP appointments.  There are times when customers will need to be referred to the doctor such as7:

    • Upper airway distress – indicated by a harsh vibrating sound while breathing, drooling, or an inability to swallow
    • Lower airway distress – indicated by laboured breathing
    • Severe headachelasting more than 7 days
    • Persistent coughlasting more than 3 weeks
  • Antibiotics advice

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    Antibiotics are ineffective for cold & flu viruses1

    Customers seeking antibiotics for their cold & flu symptoms may require supportive education around self-treatable conditions and self-care practice1.  Self-care advice from NICE7 details:

    • Antibiotics are ineffective for cold & flu and may cause adverse reactions
    • Adequate fluid should be taken to compensate for fever and mucous secretion
    • Remain as active as possible without feeling significant discomfort
    • Wash hands with warm water and soap to get rid of any germs that may have been picked up
  • Treatment

    Person showing cold symptoms

    Treating common cold symptoms

    Treatment for the common cold is aimed at symptomatic relief, and includes

    • Painkillers
    • Decongestants
    • Cough suppressants
    • Expectorants
    • Mucolytics
    • Sore throat lozenges
    • Sufferers may also employ comfort measurers and herbal remedies8,9

Help your customers find effective relief for their cold & flu

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