By Paaven Patel, Operations and Quality Assurance Pharmacist at Specialist Pharmacy
The cold and flu season is a busy time for pharmacists, as the winter illnesses take a grip over the vast majority of the population. Many people are looking for help in choosing the most effective over-the-counter (OTC) medications for their particular symptoms and pharmacists need to be well informed as to the best options.
Pharmacists can take the following proactive steps in order to prepare for this busy season:
Keeping up-to-date with the latest information about cold and flu trends in the region, including prevalent strains and local outbreaks, is an important part of the job, as is knowing all medication options available. A deep understanding of decongestants, cough suppressants, pain relievers, antihistamines and expectorants is essential, as is understanding the active ingredients contained in them and when they may be contraindicated due to interactions with existing medications being taken. Appropriate dosing regimens is also important to advise the patient.
Pharmacists play a key role in educating patients on not only pharmacological relief but also non-pharmacological options for symptom relief, such as staying hydrated or using humidifiers. They can help advise on preventative measures too, to help reduce the chance of patients contracting the illness again. These can be simple measure such as regular handwashing, hygiene practices or basic dietary recommendations or supplements to help boost the immune system. Pharmacists also have the very important role of advising patients of the symptoms which may require them to seek medical attention or red flags which would require urgent referral to a doctor.
We all know that prevention is better than cure and there are various different personalised approaches which may work; for some, particularly the elderly, that may be vaccination, for others it may be making a concerted effort to improve nutritional status at this time of the year and making time for sufficient rest. For everyone, avoiding touching the eyes and nose which can introduce viruses to the body, covering the mouth and nose when sneezing and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, are all easy yet sensible precautions which can prevent transmission of the virus.
It is the job of the pharmacist to liaise with the procurement department to ensue that the pharmacy has adequate stocks of the most popular cold and flu medications. Stock shortages are notorious at this time of year, so preparing well in advance is the key to not running out of supplies. Maintaining an accurate inventory will help to prevent shortages or expired products
By taking these steps, pharmacists can effectively prepare for and respond to the demands of the cold and flu season while also offering invaluable advice to patients and helping relieve the burden on GPs.
Specialist Pharmacy is the first compounding pharmacy of its kind in the UK, producing custom-made medications across a wide range of treatment areas such as bioidentical hormones, pain management, dermatology, haircare, sports medicine, and veterinary medications.
Specialist Pharmacy is a full-service pharmacy with over 25 years of combined expertise and unrivalled experience. Using first-class pharmaceutical ingredients (GMP standard) they are dedicated to creating safe, quality personalised medication. Specialist Pharmacy operates at the highest quality standards, in a state-of-the-art laboratory, based in the UK and fully regulated by the General Pharmaceutical Council.