“Grandma’s Old Tricks“- A Qualitative Study of Lay People’s Experiences in Treatment and Prevention of Common Cold and Influenza

Asja Ćosić Divjak, Goranka Petriček, Venija Cerovečki, Zlata Ožvačić Adžić, Goran Tešović, Kathryn Hoffmann


We aimed to explore lay people’s perception of common cold and influenza as well as their experience in treatment and prevention of those conditions, with emphasis on the reasons impacting their decision towards influenza vaccination. 24 semi-structured, individual interviews were conducted, then transcribed and analysed to find emerging themes and sub-themes. Textual data were explored inductively using content analysis to generate categories and explanations. Five major themes and explanatory models of lay people’s perspective emerged from the data. The participants expressed satisfying knowledge regarding influenza and common cold symptoms, length, transfer and treatment options as well as described a clear distinction between those two diseases. On the other hand, they emphasized the same general preventative measures for both common cold and influenza, considering influenza vaccination primarily an option for chronic, old or bedridden patients and health workers. Facilitators in the vaccination decision making process were health professionals’ (mostly general practitioners’) recommendation, anxiety regarding influenza and possible complications, existence of chronic diseases and positive vaccination experience. As main reasons against vaccination participants stated perception of being at low risk for influenza, opinion that vaccination is necessary only for bedridden and old people, chronic patients or health workers and questionable effectiveness of the vaccine. Participants’ influenza vaccination knowledge was insufficient, which should direct further interventions, especially having in mind low vaccination rates. Since participants perceived general practitioner’s recommendation as a crucial facilitator in forming their positive attitude towards vaccination, practitioners are invited to assess and, when needed, modify inappropriate perception towards influenza prevention when leading person centred consultations.


qualitative study; influenza; common cold; lay people; experience

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