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The role of the pharmacist in colds and flu

The flu and colds are being the protagonists of these winter months, together with the new variants of coronavirus such as omicron and the new versions and mutations of infections such as flurone (which is the name given to the double contagion by coronavirus and flu), which is causing health systems to collapse. Because, pharmacists claim their role as the health agents closest to citizens and they ask that they be included as one more part of the National Health System.

Along these lines, pharmacists They can help promote self-care and prevent some pathologies through pharmaceutical advice. And also, in the face of common upper respiratory tract infections (URTI, for its acronym in English: ‘upper respiratory tract infections’), which are so present in these months, they can help in a safe and professional way.

“Pharmacists can help in the prevention of infections from self-care”

This is how they wanted to see through the guide ‘Cold, Flu and Sinusitis: Symptom Management and Self-Care Support’, prepared by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP, in collaboration with The Clean Breathing Institute (a scientific initiative funded by GSK Consumer Healthcare).

The roles of pharmacists are varied and have been defined in the manual as: support to self-care (for example, advice on the use of non-prescription drugs); prevent infections and support respiratory wellness (for example, through the use of masks, nasal hygiene and good ventilation of the interior spaces); evaluate symptoms; refer patients when necessary; education and counseling of the patient (for example, on antimicrobial resistance and how to administer nasal formulations); attention through minor illness plans; and advice based on scientific evidence on complementary medicines.

20 million visits for respiratory diseases

Upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) are contagious, usually viral, conditions that affect the nasal cavity, pharynx, and larynx. They can include ailments like the common cold, flu, and sinusitis.. “Although in most cases these respiratory conditions are mild and self-limited, they can have important repercussions on quality of life. and the productivity of patients, affecting even the children and caregivers of the infected ”, they point out in the guide.

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Cough, sore throat, rhinitis, runny nose, and headache are some of the signs and symptoms of UTIs and often coexist simultaneously. “For this reason, it is essential that healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, are able to discern the possible causes of respiratory signs and symptoms, and more importantly, recognize the warning symptoms that require a quick evaluation by a doctor “, they point out.

Acute respiratory infections are common ailments in community settings, including outpatient and general practice settings, as well as in pharmacies ditto. “Respiratory diseases are estimated to account for more than 20 million visits to community pharmacists each year in the United States., and represent one of the most frequent reasons, if not the most frequent, why patients seek the advice of a healthcare professional ”, they point out in the manual.

Promotion of self-care as a key to prevention

One of the points that this manual aims to highlight is the importance of self-care. “We need a new approach to healthcare that allows people to take care of their own health”, they indicate. In this sense, they emphasize that the improvement of knowledge and education in health matters can have a very positive effect on people’s lives. However, they denounce that “Its importance is not taken into account in the development of health policies.”

Photo: Photo: iStock
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F. S. B.

“Enabling people to manage their health and well-being is a key element in overcoming the multiple health crises in all countries and territories, and to relieve pressure on overburdened healthcare systems. To achieve this, all stakeholders must commit to initiatives that put the patient at the center of treatment, with an equal commitment to improving education and with a greater emphasis on self-care, “they comment in the FIP manual.

Along these lines, as front-line and accessible healthcare professionals, pharmacists, especially in community settings, play an important role in “Evaluate the signs and symptoms that are presented through screening, triage and referral if deemed necessary.”

In addition, pharmacists are well equipped with the clinical and pharmacological knowledge necessary to recommend appropriate supportive care and non-drug treatment options, in addition to orienting patients to the variety of products and over-the-counter medications available for these indications. “Pharmacists are also available to educate patients on the use of complementary medicines that can present both risks and benefits ”, they conclude.

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