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Pharmacists warns of major mistakes most people make treating colds and flu at home

IT’S that time of year again when people spend much of their time coughing, sneezing and wiping their noses.

In the midst of scanning pharmacy shelves and reading online forums it can be hard to figure out how best to treat ourselves.

Pharmacists warn of the mistakes people are making when treating cold and flu

Two pharmacists have warned of some of the common mistakes people are making when treating winter bugs and how to actually go about making yourself feel more human.

“People frequently take vitamin C to prevent colds but there is little evidence to back this,” Sadik Al-Hassan, a pharmacist based in Bath explained.

Some studies suggest the vitamin could help clear up a cold faster, but the evidence is still quite inconclusive.

“Another popular product for cold and flu among patients is echinacea,” the pharmacist explained.

Echinacea is a plant which was once thought by experts to stimulate the immune system to more effectively fight infection.

But recent studies have found dietary supplement does little to reduce the time you are feeling ill, Sadik told the Sun.

“Although has been found to slightly reduce the chances of catching a cold,” he explained.

Mike Hewitson, a pharmacist based in Somerset, warned people against using left-over antibiotics they might find in their house.

“Flu [and the common cold] are both viral infections and cannot be treated with antibiotics,” he said.

“There is no direct treatment to treat the two viral infections, it’s all about managing the symptoms,” he added.

Mike suggested people stick to simple painkillers like paracetamol which will help to control fever as well as drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.

“I generally advise people to use unbranded products which are often as effective as the branded products, but at a fraction of the price,” he said.

“With the cost of living crisis I think this is something people should know,” he added.

Both medicine experts stressed that prevention is always better than cure in the case of cold and flu.

“It’s not too late to have an NHS flu jab if you qualify, and many pharmacies will also be able to provide you with a private flu vaccination service,” Mike said.

“The more people we can get vaccinated the lower the pressure from flu will be on hospitals and GP practices,” he also explained.

How to spot the difference between flu and a common cold

Flu can be a lot more serious than the common cold, so it’s important to know the difference between the two:


If you’re suffering from a cold, it’s likely you will pick up ear infections and infections of the sinuses.

The NHS says in general though, you may experience:

  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • body aches
  • cough
  • headache


The symptoms of flu are very similar to those of a very bad cold.

The NHS says this includes a suffer high temperature of 38C or more.

A high temperature had previously been a symptom of Covid, but the experts said that this is less likely with the Omicron strain.

You will also experience body aches and a dry cough.

You may also have difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite and feeling or being sick.

You are less likely to experience these with a cold or the Omicron strain.

So when it comes to spotting the difference between flu and Covid, it should be straight forward.

Experts at the CDC said: “People with flu virus infection are potentially contagious for about one day before they show symptoms. However, it is believed that flu is spread mainly by people who are symptomatic with flu virus infection.

“Older children and adults with flu appear to be most contagious during the first 3-4 days of their illness, but some people might remain contagious for slightly longer periods.

“Infants and people with weakened immune systems can be contagious for even longer.”

But there is a finer line between a cold and Omicron, so you should look out for any secondary infections such as ear infections.

It’s also important to note that you could have coronavirus, but have an asymptomatic infection – meaning you might not know you have the bug.

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