Pharmacies have a crucial role to play in educating customers about the common cold and tackling antimicrobial resistance, especially when it comes to customers asking for antibiotics, so said Professor Ron Eccles, former director of the Common Cold Centre, in a session on the assisted self-care agenda. “Patients often rush off to the GP for antibiotics at the first sign of a cold because they’re anxious and that anxiety comes from a lack of knowledge,” he said.
“A very reasonable estimate is that there are 120 million
colds a year in the UK – that’s a lot of business for pharmacy – and [staff ] have to be confident in passing on information to customers. That confidence comes from education.”
The fact is, Professor Eccles said, antibiotics are only effective for bacterial infections and colds are viruses so they won’t help to relieve symptoms. “We often refer to colds as germs but actually germs can include viruses, bacteria and funghi so we need to be specific.” Professor Eccles acknowledged that discussions about antimicrobial resistance are by no means new, as studies on the subject were fi rst carried out 80 years ago, but as antimicrobial resistance is becoming a more pressing issue and edging further up the healthcare agenda, now is the time to act.