The number of medications available for managing cold and flu symptoms can be overwhelming for many patients that enter your pharmacy during this peak illness season. The plenitude of products may be confusing to patients that have a pre-existing medical condition, such as high blood pressure. Pharmacists and their staff can be valuable educational resources during this time of year in order to help their patients make the right medication choice for their needs. Ensuring that patients are aware of proper dosages, side effects such as drowsiness, and taking medication as recommended on the label are all things to address.
Cold season lasts from late August until early April, whereas flu season starts in early October and continues through May. Children get roughly 50% more colds per year than adults, largely due to lack of hand-washing and hygienics. Patients that are pregnant or elderly, as well as children are at significant risk of flu-related illness complications which could lead to hospitalization. Over the counter medications are available to manage symptoms of both illnesses. Flu medications may be prescribed if a patient’s symptoms are severe enough to warrant antibiotics.
Helping patients to narrow down their symptoms can ensure that they select the most effective non-prescription medication for treating their cold or flu. Purchasing a prescription that does not treat sore throats, but will treat a runny nose, will be insufficient to meet a customer’s needs. Coughs are often different with colds versus flu, with coughing accompanied by mucous in patients suffering from a cold. In those with the flu, coughs are often non-productive. Pharmacists and their staff can recommend OTC medications such as Mucinex and its generic alternative for patients and their children to help clear congestion. Nasal congestion is also uncommon in those patients that have the flu. However, 60% of flu patients experience chills. Ensuring that flu patients purchase a medication that is designed to treat the unique symptoms the flu presents is crucial to helping patients achieve a relative level of comfort for the duration of their illness.
Helping patients choose between analgesics for a sore throat, antihistamines, decongestants, and decongestants is something that pharmacy staff must take into account when helping patients select an OTC medication for their cold or flu. For parents who may be shopping for medication on behalf of their child, ensuring that they understand how to read the dosage and when to administer medication is helpful. Pharmacists can also lead parents to antiseptic products such as wipes for disinfecting phones and common household surfaces.
For patients who are diabetic or suffer from high blood pressure, there are cold and flu medications that are free of artificial sugars and dyes, as well as products for those with hypertension, such as Coricidin HP. Cepacol lozenges are especially effective at treating sore throats, with a powerful analgesic that can offer respite to a patient suffering from a sore throat. Pharmacies can help their patients manage their illnesses by offering these over the counter medications during the cold and flu season and offer tips for how to practice proper hand-washing techniques to help prevent the spread of illness.