UK consumers less confident about self-diagnosing common coughs and cold than 18 months ago, J&J Consumer Health research shows

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Consumer attitudes towards everyday cough and cold symptoms have changed considerably over the last 18 months, according to new European research commissioned by Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, suggesting consumer behaviour could be different this cough and cold season.

The survey of over 6,000 consumers across the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia suggests that close to half of UK consumers (44%) now feel more hesitant about displaying cough and cold symptoms in public. Over a quarter (27%) also feel less confident about self-diagnosing and differentiating between the symptoms of common coughs and colds and other viruses – presenting an opportunity for pharmacists to bridge the gap in consumers’ knowledge and help them to understand the various treatment pathways available for cough and cold sufferers.

In addition to a lack of confidence around self-diagnosis, almost a third (29%) of UK consumers say their families have been impacted by the delayed spread of winter viruses over the summer months – indicating a potential surge in coughs and colds amongst consumers following the return of schools and the easing of lockdown restrictions.

“The role of pharmacists cannot be overstated, especially after the events of the last 18 months and continued uncertainty” said Mike Morris, Associate Director, Medical Affairs, at Johnson & Johnson Limited. “The results clearly point to a lack of confidence amongst consumers in understanding their cough and cold symptoms and the most suitable and effective treatment pathways. That is why we are continuously evolving the support we can provide to pharmacists to help them provide the very best advice and support to consumers at the right time.”

However, the research also reveals that – compared to 18 months ago – one in five (21%) UK respondents are more hesitant to ask for advice about cough and cold symptoms from healthcare professionals such as pharmacists. Instead, 61% of those suffering are likely to isolate at home. Of those hesitant consumers, more than two in five (43%) say they’re looking to the Government and Public Health Authorities to confirm it’s okay to seek out advice from local pharmacists for cough and cold symptoms.

The survey also points to the significant role pharmacists can play to support consumers and help them prepare for the upcoming winter months and the anticipated increase in coughs and colds. Nearly a third (32%) of UK consumers are now more likely to prioritise getting the flu vaccine ahead of winter than they were pre-pandemic.

“We recognise the challenge facing pharmacists as they look to prepare for the 2021-22 autumn and winter months,” added Mike Morris. “That is why we have evolved our proprietary in-house tool, Compass 360, making it available to Health Care Providers and retail customers to give pharmacists a future view of the cough and cold season, help them forecast anticipated sales, and provide the very best advice and support to consumers.”

The Compass 360 tool, which models search trends and/or the weather to identify when users are likely to purchase, can help pharmacists to prepare for the upcoming cough and cold season by providing weekly forecasting updates, which can aid smarter buying decisions.

To mark World Pharmacists Day, representatives from the UK cough and cold category team at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health are launching a webinar entitled How pharmacists can prepare for the cough and cold season which will be made available on PharmaGenius, Johnson & Johnson’s platform of resources. The webinar will delve into the results of the survey, exploring what they mean for the upcoming cough and cold season and how pharmacists can prepare with the support of the Compass 360 tool. To watch the webinar visit www.pharmagenius.co.uk.