Establishing how to persuade and support people to prevent colds, flu and Covid-19


For most people, illnesses like colds, flu and Covid-19 are unpleasant and disruptive. For vulnerable patients they can exacerbate existing health problems, hospitalise or even kill.  Some emerging evidence suggests that a type of nasal spray can help prevent these illnesses. But how can we persuade people to use these sprays?

My Work

I was a Health Psychologist and behaviour change expert on a large clinical trial.  I was responsible for establishing a) how people think and feel about these sorts of illnesses b) how they respond to the suggestion of using a preventative nasal spray and c) how to best persuade and support people to use a spray. I then wrote and refined the content for a website and a booklet to be issued, along with a nasal spray, to patients who are vulnerable to these illnesses.

I gathered valuable and rapid insights through using online customer reviews of this type of nasal spray.  I supplemented this with ‘think-aloud’ interviews with people who looked at the prototype website content then conducted semi-structured interviews with people who had used the website and booklet and tried the spray for a few weeks.  The findings from these studies allowed me to tailor of the written advice and include behaviour change techniques that would address the most prominent barriers to using nasal sprays and maximise uptake and adherence.

The nasal sprays (along with the website and booklet I developed) are currently being tested in a huge randomised controlled trial (RCT). This trial will establish how effective the nasal sprays are, when provided along with web and booklet-based behaviour change support.  As of December 2022 there were around 10,000 people in the study!


National Institute of Health Research (NIHR)

Key Collaborators

Dr Sian Williamson1
Dr Kate Greenwell1
Molly Handcock1
Dr Katherine Bradbury1
Dr Jane Vennik1
Prof Lucy Yardley1,2
Dr James Dennison-Day1
Dr Fiona Mowbray1
Samantha Richards-Hall3
Deb Smith3
Dr Ben Ainsworth1,
Prof Paul Little1
Dr Adam Geraghty1

  1. University of Southampton
  2. University of Bristol
  3. Patient and Public Involvement Contributor

Related reports

Using nasal sprays to prevent respiratory tract infections: a qualitative study of online consumer reviews and primary care patient interviews

Patient perceptions of vulnerability to recurrent respiratory tract infections and prevention strategies: a qualitative study

The Immune Defence Study

Posted in Project.