Colds and flu are among the most frequently dealt with complaints in the pharmacy. There is no cure for a cold or flu as they are caused by viruses, but the symptoms can be relieved so that they are not noticeable.


The symptoms of cold and flu include runny/blocked nose, sneezing/coughing, aches and pains, high temperature and sore throat. The flu comes on suddenly, a cold over several hours. Flu is a much more ‘hard hitting’ illness than a cold and will usually leave the sufferer confined to bed for a few days. The symptoms of cold, while unpleasant, usually allow the sufferer to continue his or her normal daily activities. Symptoms of a cold are generally confined to the head, while a patient with the flu will feel sick all over. The treatment is the same for each condition regardless. Colds and flu generally last for about 7 days at most.




The age of the patient will influence your choice of products. On visiting the pharmacy list the various symptoms to the healthcare advisor in order that the most appropriate treatment may be chosen.


Runny nose and congestion are both treated by decongestants. Sneezing is treated by an antihistamine. A cough may be due to irritation or to post nasal drip. Headaches are due to inflammation of the sinuses and nasal passages and muscular or joint pain is common – this will need a painkiller. Sinus pain worsens on leaning forward or lying down and may develop into an infection. High temperature is more common in the flu than with a cold – paracetamol is very useful to bring down high temperature. A sore throat is usually a first sign of a cold.


If you have already taken action to relieve the symptoms inform the healthcare advisor. This may have treated just one symptom. If a good preparation is not working, the pharmacist may be able to advise you as to how to proceed.


Many cold and flu remedies contain a number of drugs, so anyone on prescription medication should speak to the pharmacist. Anyone pregnant, with heart disease or lung disease or the very young or old should also be seen by the pharmacist.


There are a vast number of preparations available for the treatment of cold and flu symptoms, some of which are combination preparations and may be capable of treating many symptoms at once. Each cold or flu is individual to the sufferer, you should ask for a personal recommendation at your local pharmacy as the array of preparations can be bewildering.


Practical Points:


  • The old fashioned advice (along with the excellent modern medication) – hot drinks, a warm bed and an early night can work wonders.
  • - If you suffer with colds and flu regularly you should take a multi-vitamin or a herbal supplement to boost your immune system, just ask a healthcare advisor at your local pharmacy.
  • Colds and flu are spread by droplets in the air but can also be spread by hand to hand contact. Frequent hand washing can help prevent you getting colds and flu, and covering your nose when sneezing can help prevent you passing your cold on to others.


Although the flu usually lasts less than a week, tiredness may persist for weeks after other symptoms have cleared up. The herb GINSENG is a very useful medication to relieve this fatigue and help to speed up your recovery.