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When do coughs and sore throats warrant a referral?

When do coughs and sore throats warrant a referral?

Coughs and sore throats are extremely common illnesses that are seen all the time in community pharmacy. While patients with these symptoms may feel unwell, the underlying condition is usually self-limiting. In these cases, over-the-counter (OTC) remedies can be useful in providing relief.

Patients asking for advice for a sore throat or cough offer an excellent opportunity for pharmacists to recommend OTC treatments and simple advice. OTC medications you can suggest for treating a sore throat include:

  • local anaesthetic lozenges or spray – for example, lidocaine or benzocaine
  • anti-inflammatories – such as benzydamine rinse or spray, and flurbiprofen lozenges
  • simple painkillers, such as paracetamol and/or ibuprofen.

OTC medications you can suggest for coughs include:

  • for a 'wet cough', expectorants – such as guaifenesin – can loosen airways secretions
  • for a 'dry cough', suppressants

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