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Cold and flu

At this time of year cold and flu cause an increasing number of customers to seek advice. Pharmacy teams should not underestimate the effect they can have in reducing unnecessary trips to GP surgeries and A&E departments.

Colds are generally self-limiting, but complications can occur. Flu is more severe and leads to a higher proportion of respiratory complications, particularly pneumonia. Flu rather than a cold is generally considered to be likely if symptoms start abruptly with sweats and chills, muscular aches, a dry and sore throat, cough and high temperature. Someone with flu may be bedbound and unable to go about usual activities, which does not happen with the common cold. It is important to encourage the uptake of flu vaccination, and prompting this whenever possible in those eligible is good practice.

The message that antibiotics are ineffective for most people with colds or flu is at the centre of public health campaigns, but pharmacy teams should be prepared to deal with enquiries from patients who think otherwise.