The cold with a novel twist

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Once again pharmacies are being inundated with people suffering from coughs and colds, but this time with heightened awareness as to the threat of coronavirus.

Dr Rebekah Moles, Associate Professor at the University of Sydney School of Pharmacy’s Faculty of Medicine and Health, tells Retail Pharmacy that pharmacists should focus on a patient’s history in terms of where they have been before presenting with fears they might have coronavirus and should keep abreast of information related to the virus.

Ms Moles underscores though, that for the most part, pharmacists will be able to quickly ascertain if someone is not simply suffering from a common cold.

She says the common cold is “very common”, with adults usually having two to three colds a year that span about seven to 10 days.

This is because there are more than 100 known cold viruses with new strains evolving every year, Dr Moles says.

“Viruses, which are everywhere, are quite clever,” she said, “because they change a lot and we can’t keep up with them. That’s why we don’t have a cure for the common cold.”

Pharmacies need to carefully register the patients’ symptoms, then try to match an ingredient to the symptoms, Dr Moles says, so, again, asking the right questions is key.

This means, she adds, that if a patient is experiencing nasal congestion, they need only buy a product that works for this symptom, whereas if they’re experiencing a chesty cough, they need only buy a product for the cough.

“What happens, though, is pharmaceutical companies get clever and they put ingredients in a specific medicine so that it has a bit of everything,” Dr Moles said.

She also emphasises that pharmacists can do much to avoid negative drug interactions in patients “by asking the right questions”.

“A pharmacist wouldn’t treat a patient with high blood pressure with a product containing pseudoephedrine, which would dry up their nose,” she said. “So, it’s all about getting a full history and inquiring after other medicines to avoid negative drug interactions.”