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Managing cold and flu during the COVID-19 pandemic

How to differentiate between the symptoms of colds, flu and COVID-19 to enable pharmacists and pharmacy teams to appropriately advise, treat or refer patients.
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Cold and flu share some symptoms and, if managed effectively, are often self-limiting and resolve within a couple of weeks in people without pre-existing conditions. However, during winter months, and given the potential overlap in symptoms with COVID-19, patients may be concerned about the cause.

This resource (click here to download the PDF) highlights the main differences between the symptoms of colds, flu and COVID-19 to enable pharmacy teams to appropriately advise, treat or refer patients.

Pharmacy consultations

Step 1: Rule out possible COVID-19 infection

Sources: ​[1–6]​

Step 2: COVID-19 suspected

Sources: ​[2,7–10]​

Step 3: Other viral infection suspected

If COVID-19 is ruled out, it is important to consider whether the patient has a cold or flu, then to ensure they do not have symptoms that would warrant further investigation before recommending treatment.

Sources: ​[3,4]​

Step 4: Recommend options for effective symptom management

Sources: ​[3,4]​

Step 5: Close the consultation

Pharmacy has been pivotal to the COVID-19 pandemic response and will ensure patients are appropriately managed when they present with a viral infection this winter. Ensuring the entire team are confident about the advice they provide to patients will help ensure best patient outcomes.

Promotion: PM-UK-NRS-20-00095

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    NHS Inform. NHS Inform. Common cold. 2020.https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/common-cold (accessed Dec 2020).
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    NHS. Flu. NHS. 2019.https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/flu/ (accessed Dec 2020).
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    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of coronavirus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020.https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html (accessed Dec 2020).
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    NHS. Your coronavirus test result. NHS. 2020.https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing-and-tracing/what-your-test-result-means/ (accessed Dec 2020).
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    NHS England and NHS Improvement. Novel Coronavirus (COVID19) standard operating procedure. NHS England and NHS Improvement. 2020.https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/wp-content/uploads/sites/52/2020/03/Novel-coronavirus-COVID-19-standard-operating-procedure-Community-Pharmacy-v2-published-22-March-2020.pdf (accessed Dec 2020).
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    The Pharmaceutical Journal. Special report: COVID-19. The Pharmaceutical Journal. 2021.https://pharmaceutical-journal.com/covid-19 (accessed Jan 2021).
Last updated
Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, January 2021;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.61482