An NHS England figure states that around 18 million GP appointments for minor children’s ailments could have been better managed by community pharmacists. Research suggests that about sixty-six per cent parents are anxious about their kids going back to school and with good reason!
Around one in five kids becomes sick just two weeks after returning to school. However, many minor ailments, such as common back to school illnesses, can be treated quickly and conveniently with over the counter medicines available at the local pharmacy.
Due to the ever-changing nutritional needs (and tastes) of children, it can be challenging for parents to squeeze a variety of wholesome foods onto their plate. This can lead to missing out on the vitamins they need, so supplementing immune-boosting vitamins can help to provide some much-needed nutritional support.
“It can be a scramble for parents to find the best way to improve their child’s immunity – with many left feeling like they need a helping hand,” says nutrition expert at BetterYou, Keeley Berry.
Pharmacists can advise on how to give a child’s immune system a boost as well as on simple hygiene procedures that can help avoid them coming down with a bug.
With so many different viruses flying around at school, children are bound to pick up common cold within the first few weeks or months back at school. A community pharmacist can provide advice on how to relieve the symptoms, including a runny nose, sore throat, aches and pains, coughs and raised temperatures.
RPS ambassador Shirin Alwash says, “if people are worried that their child’s symptoms aren’t improving, a pharmacist will be able to advise if it’s more than just a cold and recommend when it’s appropriate to see the GP.”
Children can be affected by hay fever symptoms as a result of pollen spread well into the autumn season.
Pharmacist Sultan Dajani says: “children with hay fever typically present to the pharmacy with itchy and watery eyes as well as a blocked nose.” Pharmacists should be able to distinguish between a common cold and an allergy by offering an allergy test which will also help them to treat the symptoms effectively. If the child does have hay fever, pharmacists can recommend antihistamines to help alleviate the sneezing, runny nose and eye irritation.”
If a GP has confirmed that a child has eczema, a pharmacist can provide treatment advice.
Sultan says: “It is important you assess the child’s skin and investigate the patient history and previously used treatments. I recommend emollients which should be applied generously at least three times a day. You can offer emollients over the counter but do make parents aware of the emollient ranges that are available on prescription. An eczema tracker (a diary the parents complete at home) such as one in this website (www.epaderm.com/eczematracker) can be useful.”
Head lice are very common among younger children and pharmacists can provide guidance on which products to use, taking into account the parents’ budget and time. However, Shirin feels it’s very important that head lice are treated as soon as possible, to stop them spreading to other family members, or other children at school. Pharmacists should also try to make it easier to buy head lice treatments over the counter by stocking a range of different brands and formulations to cater to their varied preferences.
Meningitis B is a life-threatening bacterial infection that can affect the lining of the brain and spinal cord, or it can cause an infection in the bloodstream – or both.
Shirin says, “pharmacists would know that the infection can be passed through saliva, including coughing and sneezing, which can make children more susceptible. They can advise on how to protect children through vaccination, as well as the symptoms to look out for, including a rash, high fever and headache.”
Finally, Shirin is of the view that “many children taking medication regularly can benefit from a medicine usage review, including those who suffer from asthma.”
The benefits of this review are checking inhaler techniques, giving the most up-to-date advice such as rinsing mouth after inhaler use and checking interaction with other medicines. A pharmacist can refer to the GP and initiate an intervention if deemed necessary.
This article also appears in the July issue of Pharmacy Business.