Cold and flu rising in France: What are some common medicine brands?

The decline of infection control measures is making it easier for diseases to spread. Check our list of French over-the-counter remedies to buy to help you get better

27 September 2021
An image of a woman sitting under a blanket sneezing into a tissue

Flu and colds are increasing in France following a winter with very few cases in 2020. Pic: Dragana Gordic / Shutterstock

By Emma Morgan

Flu and cold cases are rising in France as protective measures against Covid have become less commonplace. 

During the winter of 2020, widespread observance of social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing led to a reduction in the incidence of seasonal illnesses. 

Last year, French public health body Santé publique recorded just over 2,000 children admitted to hospital with bronchiolitis, whereas in 2018-19, there were up to 6,000 per week.

With society separated by a Covid lockdown, there was also no flu epidemic, meaning that the population has not developed any collective immunity for this year and is therefore more vulnerable, especially as people begin to mix more freely. 

Even in the summer of 2020, a Datacovid-Ipsos survey of 5,000 French adults found that between the weeks of May 12 and May 26, the proportion of people who were avoiding shaking hands and hugging fell by 7%, while the number of people steering clear of crowded places such as public transport fell by 11%. 

This year, doctors are concerned by another factor known as “vaccinated syndrome,” whereby people forget about infection control measures even after receiving just one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. 

“They see their first dose as a milestone, but their antibodies will not begin appearing until two weeks later, after which they continue to climb gradually,” infectious diseases doctor Benjamin Davido told Le Figaro. 

This means that if these individuals neglect the protective steps they had previously heeded, they can still easily catch Covid and other seasonal illnesses. 

“We are all going to be more sensitive to respiratory diseases [this year] because last winter our immune systems were not stimulated,” doctor and journalist Damien Mascret told Franceinfo.

Which cold and flu medicines can I get over the counter in France?

In France, Exomuc powders are used for blocked noses, while remedies such as Smecta and Ercéfuryl treat diarrhoea.  

For dry coughs, you can buy Clarix or Humex, while for wet coughs people use Bronchokod. 

Sore throats are treated with medicines such as Colludol, Drill tétracaïne, Hexaspray and Humex mal de gorge, as well as Strepsils. 

Other French equivalents for medicines you might already recognise include: 

  • Ibuprofène can be found in Nurofen tablets – like in the UK – as well as Spedfen and Advil. However, the generic drug is at least half the price.
  • Dafalgan (for children aged between one month and 12 years), which contains paracetamol and is available in various formats. It is the equivalent of Calpol in the UK. For children aged 12 and over, the most widely used brand of paracetamol is Doliprane’. Ask for the generic drug to save money. 
  • In place of brands such as Theraflu, Beechams, Lemsip or Night Nurse, you will find Fervex soluble powders and Dolirhume tablets, which also contain paracetamol and a decongestant. 
  • Certain flu medications contain paracetamol and caffeine, so can be replaced with Doliprane and a caffeinated drink. For medicines combining paracetamol and codeine you can use Codiloprane. 
  • Cough syrups such as Clarix, Humex, Bronchokod, and Fluimucil are available in place of cough medicines such as Benylin or Nyquil. Using a Codoliprane tablet at bedtime is also effective for night-time coughing.   
  • You should also be able to find medications such as Actifed, Imodium and Gaviscon. 

A money-saving essential is always to ask for the generic drug using the phrase, “le générique le moins cher, svp”, which can save you up to 50%.

You can find a comprehensive list of French equivalents to UK-specific medicine brands in our article: What are the French equivalents of some common UK medicine brands?

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