Comment: Pharmacy - first stop for back-to-school bugs

Published on: 12 August 2016


It’s already time to think about going back to school, and pharmacy is there to offer advice

We all know that it is almost impossible for children and teachers to avoid picking up one of the many bugs, viruses or other conditions that start circulating as soon at the new term starts. It seems that no one can escape, with parents and grandparents often finding themselves also under the weather.

From head lice and rotavirus, to stomach upsets and cold/flu symptoms, there are many self-treatable conditions that can hit families hard when autumn comes. Who do they turn to for advice?

Community pharmacists are a key part of the healthcare system, offering parents advice on how to prepare for the new term ahead and which OTC medicines they should have at the ready to self treat these conditions when they strike.  As we know, this is a vital service, which helps to reduce unnecessary visits to the GP.

Adults usually have two to four coughs and colds annually, but a child can have up to 10 colds a year because their immune system is still developing.  The cough, cold and sore throat category showed a 16 per cent value growth in 2014/15, due to a strong winter cold and flu season and high demand for products that help manage those symptoms.  The category is a key contributor to the overall value of the consumer healthcare market, which currently stands at nearly £2.5million and has grown by 2.3 per cent since last April.

Providing customers with easy to navigate back-to-school sections in community pharmacy, with relevant point of sale and prominent window displays during August and September, will help remind parents and carers that preparation is key when it comes to the management of back-to-school self-treatable conditions.

Many parents worry about whether they should keep their children at home or send them to school when they are ill. Pharmacy teams should be prepared to ask appropriate questions and offer advice to help them to make that decision. For example, does the child seem well enough to carry out the usual day-to-day activities they would at school, or is their condition serious or contagious enough to be passed on to classmates or teachers?  Helping people to make such decisions will add to their self care skills and knowledge for managing coughs and colds.

Highlighting the availability of products, giving advice for back to school ailments and communicating the principles of self care to parents is an important service that community pharmacy offers families as the first port of call.