Get prepared for winter
Remember your local pharmacy’s expert advice when it comes to tackling the colder seasons head-on, as Claire Muffett-Reece explains
The summer of 2020 certainly isn’t one we’ll forget in a hurry. Regardless of how you chose to spend the warmer months, COVID-19 will have had an impact on you in one way or another.
At the time of writing, it’s hard to gauge what stage we’ll be in when it comes to managing the virus – which makes it even more important for you to prepare for autumn and winter when it comes to you and your family’s health.
And that’s where your local community pharmacy comes in. As the colder seasons make their return appearance, your local pharmacy is the best first point of call for the vast majority of winter ailments.
Since coronavirus reared its ugly head in the UK at the start of the year, it’s safe to say life as we know it has radically changed. Your local pharmacy has been there throughout, providing medicine and advice to those that need it, just in a slightly different way. However, as much as they’re here to help, it’s vital you DO NOT attend your pharmacy if you or your family have any symptoms associated with COVID-19. The government’s advice to self-isolate still stands, so ask someone outside your household to drop off essential supplies and medicines at your door to help manage the illness at home.
However, as much as coronavirus is a worry, it’s equally vital to visit your local pharmacy if you have any other autumn/winter ailment – or general concern – that’s not associated with the virus. Need to speak to your pharmacist in private? A consultation room in most cases should be available, however you may be asked to wear PPE. Thoroughly cleaned after each use, this vital space is available for everything from emergency contraception to supervised drug consumption.
Many pharmacies provide flu vaccinations – both privately and as an NHS service.
Flu vaccination is available every year on the NHS to help protect adults and children at risk from flu and its complications.
Flu can be unpleasant, but if you’re otherwise healthy, it’ll usually clear up on its own in about a week.
But flu can be more severe in certain people, such as:
✚ anyone aged 65 and over
✚ pregnant women
✚ children and adults with an underlying health condition (such as long-term heart or respiratory disease)
✚ children and adults with weakened immune systems
Anyone in these risk groups is more likely to develop potentially serious complications of flu, such as pneumonia (a lung infection), so it’s recommended that they have a flu vaccine every year to help protect them.
This year the flu vaccination has been offered on the NHS to other people too – including people living with someone at high risk of Coronavirus.
Cold and cough remedies
Coughs and colds, however, are a different matter – and can rarely be avoided. As annoying as they are, it’s important you contact your pharmacy first before picking up the phone to dial your GP. Many people are still under the illusion that antibiotics will help a whole host of problems, from a sore throat to the common cold – but if it’s a viral infection you’ve caught, then it’s pretty much not going to be the case!
Don’t waste the NHS’s valuable resources and start by speaking to your pharmacy instead, who can offer advice and products to alleviate your symptoms.
They can also point you in your GP’s direction if they believe it to be something other than a general virus.
Stomach bugs also like to do the rounds in autumn and winter and are pretty unpleasant to experience.
Norovirus, also often referred to as the ‘winter vomiting bug’, causes sickness and diarrhoea, and can usually be treated at home. Again, resist the temptation to book a doctor’s appointment, as you’ll put others at risk by potentially passing it on to other people. Instead turn to your local pharmacy, who may be open longer hours than your GP and are fully qualified to help treat and manage your symptoms. Ask a member of your family/friend/representative to go and pick up the over-the-counter medicine they suggest if possible, staying at home and following the advice of your qualified local expert.
It’s good to talk
It’s well worth thinking how a pharmacist can support your mental health during the winter months too. Many people suffer from SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – throughout autumn/winter, a type of depression that’s more severe in the winter.
Your pharmacy can offer advice and suggestions such as a light therapy lamp to help boost your mood. They will also have dedicated support websites and telephone numbers to hand should you be suffering with any other form of mental illness, such as loneliness, anxiety and depression. With many people still avoiding public situations due to coronavirus, your local pharmacy is often an essential part of their social routine. Don’t be afraid to keep in touch – your pharmacist may well wish to hear from you to check on any regular medication and ensure you’re up-to-date and OK.
Last, but by no means least, your local pharmacy team can help with a whole range of other family-related issues, again reducing the need to ring your GP at the first sign of illness. Trained on everything from asthma to fever, and colic to chicken pox, you can usually get the medicines without having to visit your GP for a prescription.
Winter also sees skin complaints on the rise, with psoriasis and eczema often worse in the colder months for both adults and children alike. Emollients, soap substitutes for washing and mild topical creams to soothe are all available over the counter, so always head to your pharmacy first to see if they can help alleviate the problem.
Speak to your pharmacist about useful autumn/winter over-the-counter essentials to see what’s right for you and your medical history…
✚ Sore throat lozenges
✚ Cold remedies
✚ Vapour rub
✚ Saline preparations
✚ Cold sore cream
✚ Lip balm
✚ Body moisturiser