Pharmacie Assistance
December 29, 2016 10:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm an English-speaking American in Paris and I have a fever and sore throat. I can read basic French but successfully communicating with a pharmacist is way out of my league. I've managed to get ibuprofen and cough drops but what I really want is a multi-symptom medication like Alka-Seltzer Cold to get me through the doubtless approaching congestion and cough which is going to hit right as I'm boarding a plane back to the States.

Assuming this kind of medication exists here, can you tell me what to ask for? With both brand names and ingredient names if possible. I realize I could wander around and hope to find a pharmacist who understands me but I'm not really in a condition to do so. There's a pharmacy a half block from my hotel but I've been in there and the communication was so difficult I left with only the cough drops.

Thank you!
posted by something something to Health & Fitness (11 answers total)
this page might help with the is a general list of over-the-counter medications sold.
also perhaps a travel forum will have information/translations...
posted by calgirl at 11:24 AM on December 29, 2016

If you have a fever and sore throat, you probably want Paracétamol (acetaminophen/Tylenol) or Ibuprofène or kétoprofène (ibuprofen/Advil variants). You can also ask for "médicaments contre la grippe," which would cover a general flu. If you have a dry cough and a long flight, you can ask for "sirops antitussifs"--they may have mild opioid cough syrups (opiacés: dextrométorphane, codéine, codéthyline) available over the counter--and this might be nice for a transatlantic flight so you can rest.

I don't know what combination products they have (e.g., NyQuil) equivalent, but if you ask for all of these things, they might take pity on you and lead you to a magic all-in-one serum?

(NB: TINMA/etc.)

Feel better soon!

Also, if you do combine products, make sure not to take multiple medications with tylenol or ibuprofen (paracetamol or ibuprofene)--taking too much can be very harmful.
posted by stillmoving at 11:26 AM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can relate - I came down with a rough flu when in Paris years ago and happened to know the word "griep" from learning Dutch. I got lucky as it sounds the same in French ("grippe"). This Reddit post asks your same question and has some recommendations of brand names for both cold/flu medications and sore throat sprays - perhaps one or a combo of them would work?
posted by mireille at 11:27 AM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here are a few options (note that I have no personal experience with any of them - basically I just did a web search for French cold medicines):

Cold medicines with pseudoephredine and acetaminophen/paracetamol (which you should not combine with ibuprofen, to my knowledge): Actifed Rhume, Humex Rhume, Dolirhume Pro, ActifedRhume

With pseudoephedrine and ibuprofen: Nurofen Rhume, RhinureFlex
posted by as_night_falls at 11:30 AM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

This won't help with the cough, but is decongestant and pain relief. On preview, the Reddit thread will probably have some good suggestions.

If you can find the website for the pharmacy near you, they may have a drug lookup that you can throw a combo of Google Translate and symptoms at. That's definitely helped me while traveling.
posted by Tiny Bungalow at 11:32 AM on December 29, 2016

they may have mild opioid cough syrups (opiacés: dextrométorphane, codéine, codéthyline) available over the counter--and this might be nice for a transatlantic flight so you can rest.

Be careful about taking these back into the US as some of them are controlled substances and are subject to special rules. if you do buy them, you may want to take a swig before boarding and then leave them in Paris.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 11:55 AM on December 29, 2016

Do you have a smartphone with the Google Translate app on it? Because there is a setting on the app where you can hover your camera over text and it will translate the image on your phone from X language into English in real time and just from hovering it over the text. It's so whacky and magical and amazing. Found it helped me a lot when I was traveling. Best of luck!
posted by erattacorrige at 12:14 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Which Alka -seltzer formulation would you buy in the us? I'd look up its active ingredients, then search for medicines available in France containing the same ingredients. (Googling for ingredient and country seems to work.)

I'd also suggest writing down the French names for the ingredients you want as well as for the brand name of the medication you choose. I do speak some French but my pronunciation is crap, especially when sick, and being able to write down what I wanted was really useful. I also recall getting asked if my cough was dry or productive; you might try writing down some symptom details like that too (even in English, pharmacist could easily read more than they understand).
posted by nat at 1:45 PM on December 29, 2016

I use this stuff, which is, to me, pretty amazing for sore throat, cough, and congestion. If you don't find what you want, you might ask about it! (I've used the lozenges and syrup, and try never to be without.) Good luck; I'm sorry your trip is ending with this.
posted by taz at 3:07 PM on December 29, 2016

If all else fails you may try an airport pharmacy where the pharmacists are likely to be more comfortable with English.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:44 PM on December 29, 2016

Sorry if this is too late, but there is a great service in paris called SOS MEDICINES. They are affordable, and have bilingual doctors, they may be able to help you narrow down what you need and how to ask for it.
posted by evilmonk at 4:09 PM on January 3, 2017

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