Sales of over-the-counter cold, cough and flu remedies have dropped by half in Spain this autumn, in comparison with the same period last year.
Leandro Martínez, the president of the Asociación Empresarial de Cooperativas Farmacéuticas (Asecofarma) says there are three reasons to explain this 50 per cent reduction in sales so far this year: people are wearing face masks, not mixing so much with other people, and the weather is mild.
As a result of the combination of these three factors, fewer people are suffering from colds and coughs this autumn.
The first two reasons are related to the coronavirus pandemic. As people now have to wear masks in outdoor and indoor spaces, the drops which are expelled when someone coughs or sneezes are contained by their mask, thereby reducing the risk of contagion.
Equally, now that people have less social contact and keep a distance of at least a metre and a half between themselves and others, the germs are not spreading as much as usual.
Also, the flu has not yet arrived: it is expected to do so in December and, especially, in January and February, which are normally the coldest months of the winter.
The protective measures which have been adopted against SARS-CoV-2, the pathogenic agent which causes Covid-19, are also effective against colds, which are caused by another coronavirus but one which is much more benign.
Frequent hand washing and regular ventilation of rooms have also resulted in fewer people catching colds, so they are not buying remedies such as Frenadol, Couldina, Gelocatil, Gelogrip etc. Sales of cough mixtures and syrups have also dropped considerably.
Leandro Martínez says that although these are types of medication, they are freely available without a prescription and pharmacists are qualified to advise on their use. "The range is very extensive and there are many different ones to choose from," he explains.
He points out that chemists carry out a valuable advisory service. "Many people don't realise that pharmacies are essential medical establishments. They actively collaborate with the control and monitoring of illnesses, and they provide an excellent service for their customers, who can go to them for rapid assessment and advice, and to have any questions answered about what they are taking," he says. "At the moment, though, because people are protecting themselves against coronavirus, they have managed to reduce the chances of catching the common cold and as a result they don't need so many over-the-counter remedies."
With regard to the lack of flu vaccines available at pharmacies at the moment, Martínez says they have not been supplied with many doses yet. However, he says the Andalusian Health Service has bought a far higher number of doses this year than it normally would, so more should be available soon.