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Pharmacists are a source of education for students and parents.
It’s back to school. Retail pharmacies need to get ready for the onslaught of pharmacy needs that crop up among their younger patients as they return to school.
“Children, ‘tweens, and teens cannot be underestimated, and need to be treated with importance,” said Charles Tabouchirani, RPh, Owner and Supervising Pharmacist at Cherry’s Pharmacy, a children’s pharmacy located in Manhattan. “We as pharmacists have a job in advising the younger generation on how to take medications and how to stay away from toxic medications.” Back to school is an opportune time to enhance that discussion, he said.
In dealing with the younger population, said Tabouchirani, pharmacists can help ensure that their younger patients receive their medications via the most appealing delivery systems. For example, preschoolers will most likely prefer a liquid dose of a medication while older children might prefer a pill.
“Children are not just small adults, said Jake Olson, PharmD, owner of Skywalk Children’s Pharmacy in Milwaukee. They require different doses or different meds entirely from adults, he said.
The pharmacist can be a source of education to parents at this time of year, said Tabouchirani “As students return from camp, for example, it’s important for parents to make sure their offspring have brought back all their medicine.” As a further check, parents should ensure that appropriate refills are requested.
“Pharmacists can give parents and students expert advice about the records that need to be filled out for school medication administration and also on how to organize the students’ medications and records,” said Scott Goldberg, Spokesperson for Walgreens. “In addition, pharmacists can support parents and students at any level by sharing information about back-to-school immunizations, side effects, drug and food interactions, as well as tips on remembering when to take medications.”
While several health concerns come to the forefront as students head back to their classrooms, head lice seems to top the list at most pharmacies. “This is a big issue,” Gabe Trahan, NCPA’s Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing, told Drug Topics. “Many parents are looking for all-natural remedies, so it would be wise for pharmacies to stock up on both traditional and alternative choices.”
Tabouchirani concurred that natural products, in addition to the traditional ones, are often in demand.
“It’s important to alert parents to this topic,” he said. “Kids come back from summer camp and bring back critters. It’s very important for parents to inspect students for ticks and lice.”
In addition to stocking up on lice products, Olson stresses the importance of education. “We have our head lice products prominently displayed,” along with educational brochures, he told Drug Topics. “We remind parents that their offspring should not share hats and also point out places where lice can be contracted, such as at a movie theater.”
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“Braces are big for school sports,” Trahan told Drug Topics, and along with the knee and other orthopedic braces, pharmacies should have a ready supply of external analgesics and hot and cold treatments.
At Skywalk Pharmacy, the availability of a full line of orthopedic braces is ramped up as the students go back to school.
Cherry’s Pharmacy, too, stresses the importance of having these items on hand. In September, “the sun is still out and it’s still warm,” so students will be out playing on the field, said Tabouchirani. “This increases the exposure students will have to allergens, so it’s important to have a healthy supply of allergy products on hand,” he added. Nasal sprays and antihistamines are important.
Pharmacies can never be too prepared for allergies, said NCPA’s Trahan. At least six of the top allergy brands should be available for purchase as students prepare for the first day of school, he said.
Exercise-induced asthma can also surface as students get back to playing sports, said Olson. In North Carolina, Joe Moose, owner of Moose Pharmacy, which has several locations, stresses the importance of keeping a rescue inhaler on hand, both at home and in school, especially for children between the ages of 4 and 9.
He also urges parents to check the expiration dates on their children’s EpiPens.
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The threat of infections cannot be minimized as September rolls around and students head to their classrooms, said Olson. Pharmacies should ramp up their supply of antibiotics at this time of year. “People get back together and start spreading infections so the use of antibiotics increases,” said North Carolina’s Moose.
Common infections Olson sees in his pharmacy in September are dermatologic infections, such as ringworm and athlete’s foot, as well as of eye, ear, nose, and throat infections.
These infections can spread as soon as students go back to school and there is contact.
“It’s important to communicate to younger customers the importance of taking their antibiotics as they are prescribed,” said Tabouchirani. “It’s especially important that children between the ages of 4 and 12 are given the proper instruction with their parents at their side. Empowering the children-and their caregiver-can help increase compliance. Pharmacists come to be trusted as the younger set sees that their medications are helping them,” Tabouchirani said.
In Wisconsin, Olson sees a rise in medications dispensed for ADHD as September rolls around. “This is a huge trend, he said, especially among the preschool and early elementary age set. “Students are being treated at a much younger age,” he noted.
Parents may give their children a few weeks off these medications in summer and will start them up again as the students go back to school, Olson explained.
Moose noted the same trend. In his pharmacy, he makes sure that there is a stock of fish oil supplements and ADHD support products in time for his younger customers to head back to school.
At Moose Pharmacy, students are encouraged to come in for an immunization evaluation before the school year. It’s important for students who are going off to college to receive the appropriate vaccines, Moose said. He also encourages all students to come back and receive flu vaccine later in the year.
Walgreens offers back-to-school immunizations, said Goldberg. “Walgreens offers the recommended vaccinations for adolescents and college students. Nearly all states require students to receive a Tdap booster between sixth and twelfth grade to protect against whooping cough,” said Goldberg. “More than 50% of states require elementary and secondary school students to receive a meningococcal conjugate vaccination (MenACWY) to protect against meningitis.”
Olson sees an increase in the sale of humidifiers as children go back to school. At his pharmacy in Wisconsin, these products are hard to resist as they are come in child-friendly shapes, such as ladybugs or Darth Vader.
An increase in the sale of cold and cough medicines needs to be accompanied by the right education, he added. “Parents need to know the cold and cough medicines that are appropriate for the younger age groups.”
Tabouchirani has seen an increase in skin care products, such as for acne, in September, as well as dental products.
And NCPA’s Trahan stressed that you should never underestimate the value of a simple item like tissue. Pharmacies should have extra boxes on hand because many schools require students to bring in a box of tissue.
“Many college students going away to school have not had a lot of experience with managing their health care,” said Goldberg. “These students may be new to using their health insurance, understanding copays, or even having their prescriptions filled. Pharmacists can make strong connections with parents and college students to help students take a more active approach to their health.”
“Before a student goes off to college, they should have the experience of picking up their own prescription and presenting their own insurance card,” said Olson.
Related article: Immunizations Across the Adult Lifespan
College students should ask their providers about 90-day prescription options. “Filling prescriptions for 90 days could help students potentially reduce trips to the pharmacy. In addition, 90-day prescriptions and 90-day refills have been shown to improve medication adherence,” Goldberg stressed. At Moose Pharmacy, birth control pills are often dispensed with longer refill periods as students head off to college.
“For college students, pharmacists can recommend specific over-the-counter medications to include in a college student’s first aid kit and medicine cabinet,” Goldberg said.
Since Skywalk Pharmacy is a children’s pharmacy, the precollege visit may be one of the last encounters with that patient, said Olson. “We want to make sure we do all we can to make the transition smooth,” he concluded.