Sunday 11 December 2011

National Pharmacy Association offers tips on staying healthy over the festive period

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) is offering people advice on how to stay healthy over the festive period with the help of their local pharmacist.

Leyla Hannbeck, a pharmacist and Head of Information at the NPA said: "Plan ahead for Christmas by making sure your medicine cabinet is stocked with winter essentials and make sure you order your regular prescribed medicines well in advance. If you need help over the festive period, your local pharmacy is a good first contact point for advice on many common health concerns."

What do I do if I run out of my medicines over the Christmas period?

Check your supply of regular prescribed medicines NOW! If you are likely to run short over Christmas, make sure you get your prescription in time and collect it from the pharmacy before it closes for the holiday period. GPs and pharmacies can be very busy in the run up to Christmas, so don't leave it until the last minute. If you are away from home and have forgotten your regular medicines, you might be able to buy an emergency supply from the local pharmacy. The best advice though is to plan ahead!

What's the best way to treat a cold?

According to a recent survey by the National Pharmacy Association, one in ten people think the best way to treat a cold is by taking antibiotics. This is incorrect as antibiotics can only cure bacterial infections, not viral infections such as common colds and coughs. The best way to treat most coughs and colds is to drink plenty of fluids and to rest. There are many over the counter remedies to ease symptoms - ask your pharmacist for advice. If your symptoms last for more than three weeks, or you become breathless, have chest pains, fever, or already have a chest complaint, see your doctor.

Share gifts not medicines this Christmas

Where medicine is concerned sharing isn't caring. You may think you're helping your friend or relative by giving them medicines that your GP has prescribed for you but this can be dangerous as the medicine may not be suitable for other people. The same goes for non-prescription medicines like painkillers. For example, if you have high blood pressure, bleeding disorders, asthma, stomach ulcers or liver and kidney disease, aspirin may not be suitable for you. Similarly, Ibuprofen is not suitable if you have blood clotting problems, stomach ulcers, kidney or heart problems.

What minor ailments can pharmacists help with?

If people with minor ailments like coughs and colds and ear and eye infections visited their pharmacy rather than their GP, this could save 57 million GP consultations a year. And it could save your time too. You don't need an appointment to see your pharmacist and many are open in the evenings and at the weekend. Some pharmacies run a minor ailment service, which means that they can supply medicines for certain self-limiting conditions on the NHS. If you have something more serious, they are trained to know when to refer you on.

Help! I've had too much to eat!

Overeating can cause a range of symptoms spanning from heartburn, indigestion, nausea or constipation. Your local pharmacist can recommend suitable medicines to reduce and ease your symptoms but there are also things you can do at home. For example, try not to lie down right after you eat and if you are constipated, eat high fibre foods like wholegrains and plenty of fruit and vegetables.

What to do when you've had too much to drink...

Alcohol is a diuretic which means that it speeds up the loss of water from the body. This causes dehydration which can then cause many other symptoms like an upset stomach, fatigue and headaches. Try to keep your drinking down to the recommended limit (men: 3 to 4 units per day and women: 2-3 units per day). Your local pharmacy can help with remedies to ease your hangover such as over-the-counter painkillers to help with headaches. Paracetamol-based remedies are usually preferable as aspirin may further irritate the stomach and increase nausea and sickness.

Have a winter clearout...

A recent survey by the NPA found that one in ten people admit to never checking that their medicines are still in date. Medicines can become increasingly less effective once they pass their expiry date. For example, most eye drops expire 28 days after opening and for some, the shelf life is even shorter. If you notice that any of your medicines are out of date, take them to your local pharmacist who will arrange to have them destroyed.

Children's doses for liquid paracetamol

Changes have been made to recommended doses for young children of liquid paracetamol - such as Calpol. Until recently packaging on bottles of the children's strength solutions advised that children aged from 12 months to six years could be given the same dose. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has now revised its recommendations to reflect the large differences in weight and bodily development between a one-year-old baby and a six-year-old child. Only those aged four or over should be given the maximum dose of two teaspoons a time. Those aged two to four should be given only 7.5ml (a full teaspoon and a half teaspoon), up to four times a day. If you're in any doubt, ask your pharmacist for advice. In the meantime, parents should follow the advice on the packaging, making sure not to exceed the recommended dose

What if I need emergency contraception?

You can buy the emergency contraceptive pill from most pharmacies if you're aged 16 or over. Some pharmacies can provide you with the emergency contraceptive pill for free as part of an NHS sexual health service. Many pharmacies have a consultation area where you can ask for advice without being overheard. If you need to see a pharmacist over the festive period you can find out which ones are open from NHS Direct, local PCT websites or your local newspaper.

Tips for coping with travel sickness

If you're travelling to see relatives over the Christmas period and suffer with travel sickness, ask your pharmacist for advice on available remedies. They can also give tips on how to prevent travel sickness such as ensuring there is good ventilation and encouraging children who suffer with travel sickness to look out of the window instead of playing games or reading books as this can make it worse.

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