flu pharmacist

Cold & Flu – Ask A Pharmacist with Anne Smyth

Life Pharmacy’s Anne Smyth answers some of the most commonly asked questions about cold & flu – featured in the Irish Independent’s ‘Mother & babies’ supplement 5 December 2018.

Why are a cold and flu so prevalent in winter?

It’s a time of year when our immune systems need to be at its best. My advice is to be prepared. Get the flu vaccine from the pharmacist if you are over 65 or at risk and within two weeks you are immune to the flu. The common cold is also a virus and all you can do is prepare yourself to fight it and then treat the symptoms when it occurs.

How can I boost my immune system?

Adequate sleep and exercise, good nutrition and low levels of stress are what make your immune system work at its best. Failure of any of these four points can weaken the immune system and either prolong an existing cold, or leads to more frequent ones. In winter, I feel we need more rest. Try to get to bed an hour earlier each night and you could nearly build up an extra night’s sleep. Eat well because a good balanced diet promotes well-being and reduces your chances of catching a cold. You may then need a pharmacist to recommend a supplement, ones that I would recommend are Nature’s Aid Multi-Vitamin & Minerals or Quest Super Once a Day.

Is there anything I can take to help me fight off a cold and flu?

We’re in the dark days of winter and vitamin D, which boosts your immunity, is essential for everyone. I would recommend Quest Vitamin D, which is a 2,500i.u. strength, and slightly higher than most on the market and I take it myself from October until the end of February. Quest Immune Biotix is a fantastic product for anyone who needs to be at work every day and can’t afford to be sick. It’s a probiotic that I also take winter-long, and which boosts your defences. For children, especially for those in schools and pre-schools where bugs are circulating, there’s Quest Kidz Biotix. In terms of children who aren’t getting their seven a day – and the seven should be more vegetables than fruit – Revive, an Irish company, has just launched a new kids and teen supplement that contains what they need per day, Revive Active Junior and Revive Active Teen.

How can I protect myself from catching an illness from someone else?

Some viruses live for several days on surfaces, for example phones, door handles and computer keyboards. Wipe down all these touch surfaces frequently and choose a hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol to keep in your child’s schoolbag or your pocket. When washing hands, make sure that warm water and soap is used.

If I do catch a cold or flu, how can I relieve it?

Get your sleep. When someone gets a cold, the most effective thing is rest and the body signals its need to rest by being tired, and we’ve all experienced the fatigue of the common cold. If you’re coughing so much that you’re chest hurts and you’re getting a bad night’s sleep, consider a cough suppressant. However, the cough suppressant is only recommended for use at night. It will suppress your cough and let you sleep but the key is that you promote your coughing during the day so that you’re clearing out the mucus. Your Life pharmacist can recommend a suitable cough treatment to manage your symptoms.

What do you suggest in terms of medication?

If you present with a cold or flu, the first thing we suggest is don’t over medicate. Choose the product that suits your symptoms and don’t take anything that you don’t require. Most flu remedies will have pain relief and the two main pain relievers are paracetamol and ibuprofen. Some come in combination products and they can be used to treat all symptoms, for example Benylin Day and Night and Nurofen Cold and Flu but always check that the medication is suitable for you, particularly if you are on other medications and if you have high blood pressure, asthma, stomach ulceration or heart disease. Always follow the correct dosing instructions.

What can I do about symptoms like a cough, stuffy nose and sore throat?

A hot shower can help with a cough by loosening secretions in the nose and humidifiers may also help by bringing moisturisers back into the air. If that doesn’t work, your pharmacist may recommend a decongestant. You have a choice of oral or nasal decongestants. Nasal decongestants work quicker and are used in nose for a maximum of two to three days and must be stopped then because they can cause rebound congestion. Vogel Sinuforce Nasal Spray is quite safe to use all the time. Those on blood pressure medication should not take oral decongestants without medical advice. Antihistamines such as Cetrine can also relieve runny noses and sneezing that can come with a cold. Sore throats, meanwhile, can be extremely painful or just irritating. If inflamed and painful, it will require either ibuprofen or paracetamol. Lozenges can ease the pain by keeping the throat moist and my preferred lozenges are Tyrozets, which are suitable for all the family from three years up and have an anaesthetic effect which offers great relief. A teaspoon of honey can also coat the back of the throat and reduce irritation, coughing and the urge to cough.

Smyths Life Pharmacy Dundalk  has been serving the community for 52 years and Anne Smyth is a second generation pharmacist working there since she qualified in 1991. The pharmacy was one of the first be join the Life brand in 2008 and has since been joined by another 71 Life pharmacies across the country.  Smyths Life Pharmacy is proud to have a  team of four pharmacists, four technicians and six sale assistants that are happy to provide a great source of health information, care and advice to the community of Dundalk.

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