Opportunities in a developing market

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mitochondrial disease

The opportunity is here, and the time is now because pharmacies are firmly in the spotlight for kids’ health. In the January/February issue of Retail Pharmacy Assistants e-magazine, we look at how pharmacy assistants can help parents and kids during their visits to a community pharmacy.Good moves for young minds

Today, with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia consistently encouraging pharmacies to become a community health hub offering a range of professional services, and the pandemic ensuring an increase in the number of patients visiting pharmacies for vaccinations, the landscape is perfect for pharmacies to add a range of customer options related to children’s health.

Opportunities 

With openings to engage with children available across a wide range of initiatives, including wound care, vaccination, skincare, respiratory allergies, head lice and pain management, the opportunities are many. Retail Pharmacy Assistants focuses on some of these through the eyes of a pharmacy assistant.

  • Vaccination 

Never has vaccination been a more important aspect of children’s healthcare, with the ever-present and evolving nature of Covid remaining a threat for the immediate future.

The recent approval of vaccinations for children has certainly created an opportunity for pharmacists, not only to help protect their local community but also to win a new type of customer, as parents bring their kids to a pharmacy as a patient, often for the first time.

The vaccine rollout to children is critical to protect our communities, particularly as we know schools, and children mixing, have been a major source of infections. With cases rising exponentially in Australia and schools back in February, pharmacists are a key part of the rollout strategy.

  • Pain management 

It’s well known that optimal pain management is the right of all patients and the responsibility of all health professionals, so, with increasing numbers of children undergoing procedures in community pharmacies, the pain management advice from the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) in Melbourne is a valuable resource.

It’s not just the children who may be nervous or tense regarding a vaccination. Often the parents bring not only their own fears and phobias but also genuine concerns that need to be managed. With the clinical team likely to be engaged administering vaccinations, and a queue of patients waiting for their turn, pharmacy assistants can play a vital role in helping soothe the nerves, calm the fears and manage the concerns of Mum or Dad.

  • Headlice and nits 

Headlice is a common problem in primary school-aged children. While head lice don’t spread disease, they can cause itching and, for some children, skin irritation. Head lice commonly affect children more than adults because children play far more closely and lice are transferred through the proximity of heads and when they share an affected comb or hairbrush. Adults are can also have lice.

You can see the lice and nits (eggs) on close inspection of the head and scalp. Nits look like tiny white dots attached firmly to the hair. They cannot be brushed or flicked off the hair, but must be physically removed with fingers or fingernails or special nit combs.

The two main treatment options for head lice are:

  1. Wet combing using conditioner and a fine-tooth comb.
  2. Chemical removal using synthetic or natural insecticides.

The wet combing method is a cheap and effective way to treat head lice. The conditioner doesn’t kill the lice, but it briefly stuns them, making it easier for the nit comb to trap and remove the lice and eggs.

  • Conjunctivitis 

Conjunctivitis, also called ‘pink eye’, is a condition where the white of the eye turns pink or red. This occurs when the eye’s clear, outer layer, the conjuctiva, and the inside of the eyelid become inflamed.

Conjunctivitis is highly contagious and can be transmitted easily among young children due to sharing of towels, holding hands and close proximity.

When it occurs, it’s recommended that a frontline health professional, such as a pharmacist, optometrist or doctor, diagnoses the cause to ensure the appropriate treatment is prescribed.

The symptoms of conjunctivitis include red or pink eyes, although, depending on the type of conjunctivitis, there may be additional symptoms as follows:

  1. Bacterial conjunctivitis may be accompanied by yellow or green discharge from the eyes, which can make the eyelids stick together. One or both eyes might be affected.
  2. Viral or allergic conjunctivitis is typically accompanied by clear discharge. Patients may also have an itchy nose and sneezing, typical of hay fever symptoms.
  3. Patients with conjunctivitis might also have tears, puffy eyes, a gritty sensation in the eye, itchy or burning eyes and/or sensitivity to light
  4. Where there is some vision loss or pain, recommend the patient sees a doctor or optometrist immediately.
  • Threadworms 

Threadworms are small worm-like parasites that live in the intestines, growing to about 12mm in length. They are also known as pinworms.

Threadworm infection occurs when people – usually children – are infected through threadworm eggs on their hands, which are then put in their mouths, leading to the eggs being swallowed. Having reached the lower intestines, the eggs grow into worms. These worms then move to the anus to lay their own eggs.

The worms lay their eggs at night, which typically makes that part of the bottom itchy. When the skin around the anus is scratched and then the hands aren’t properly washed, the eggs transfer back into the mouth, repeating the cycle.

Threadworm eggs are usually passed from one person to another, as they can survive on the skin, toys, and other objects for several weeks. It’s important to note that humans don’t catch threadworms from animals.

To diagnose threadworm infection, it may be possible to see the worms on the child’s underwear. They may also be seen at night around a child’s buttocks. If the child only has an itchy bottom, treatment for threadworms is often conducted, as the infection is both common and easy to treat with medicine prescribed by a doctor, or available from your pharmacist.

Usually, the medicine is taken as a single dose, which is repeated two weeks later.

It’s important for the whole family to be treated at the same time, as it’s common for the whole family to become infected because the eggs are easily passed from one person to another within a household, from hands or fingernails to towels, sheets and other surfaces.