Protect yourself from flu this winter

Jodie Williamson MRPharmS, Pharmacist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Jodie Williamson MRPharmS

by Jodie Williamson, Pharmacist and Professional Development and Engagement Lead at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Wales.

In September 2017, the NHS announced that it was preparing for the worst flu season it has ever seen. This is likely to be caused by a heavy flu season, which has been predicted in the wake of more cases of flu than usual detected during the southern hemisphere winter, and a lack of hospital beds. With that in mind, it’s time to think about what you can do to protect yourself. Read more Protect yourself from flu this winter

Measles in South Wales – what you need to know

Jodie Williamson MRPharmS, Pharmacist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Jodie Williamson MRPharmS

by Jodie Williamson MRPharmS, Pharmacist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

In June 2017 Public Health Wales announced that there were four confirmed cases of Measles in Newport. By July 24 the number of cases confirmed had increased to 10. This outbreak triggered a rolling vaccination programme in the area, with over 1,000 children receiving the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. This outbreak was caused by the same strain of measles that has affected more than 14,000 people across Europe this year, and has sadly killed 35 people to date.

So what do you need to know about measles to keep you and your family safe?

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness which is passed from person to person via droplets which are released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can live on surfaces for several hours and you can catch measles just by touching that surface and then placing your hands near your nose and mouth.

The symptoms of measles are:

  • Cold-like symptoms such as sneezing and a high temperature
  • A Cough
  • Sore, red eyes which are sensitive to light
  • Small greyish-white spots on the inside of the cheeks
  • Reddish-brown blotchy rash which usually appears a couple of days after the other symptoms.

If you think that you or your child may have measles you should contact your GP. It is important to call the surgery before you attend so that they can take steps to reduce the risk of other patients becoming infected whilst you’re there. If you or your child has received two doses of the MMR vaccine or previously had measles then it is unlikely to be measles – there are a number of other conditions with similar symptoms.

 

Treating a measles infection

There is no specific treatment for measles, but there are a number of things you can do to ease the symptoms in ordinary cases.

  • Paracetamol can be used to reduce a high temperature and relieve pain.
  • Closing blinds/curtains or dimming lights can help with sensitivity to light.
  • A sore throat or a cough can be soothed with hot drinks, particularly those containing honey and lemon. It is important to note that honey should not be given to babies under 12 months old.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Wash away crustiness around the eyes with damp cotton wool.

Your local pharmacist will be able to advise you on the best treatment for your symptoms. They will also make sure that any medicines you buy over the counter are safe to take with your regular medication if you take any.

 

More serious cases of measles

Measles usually lasts for 7-10 days and although it is often unpleasant, most cases pass without any additional complications. However, some people can develop serious, and even life-threatening illnesses such as pneumonia and meningitis. Other life-changing complications can include blindness and deafness. Serious complications are more likely to develop in children under 5, children with a poor diet and people with a weakened immune system.

Warning signs of serious complications from measles to look out for include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Sharp chest pain that is worse when breathing in
  • Coughing up blood
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions (fits)

If you or your child develops any of these symptoms you should go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department or dial 999 for an ambulance.

 

Stop your family from being affected in the first place

The best thing you can do to protect you and your family from measles if make sure that you have all had two doses of the MMR vaccine. The first dose is usually given to babies when they are between 12 and 13 months old, and the second dose is given at 3 years and 4 months, but it is never too late to get vaccinated. If you’re not sure if you have received the vaccine, contact your GP surgery who will be able to check your records.

Choose Pharmacy

Jodie Williamson MRPharms
Jodie Williamson MRPharms

by Jodie Williamson MRPharmS, Pharmacist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

In November 2015 the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Wales claimed that we need 400 more GPs in Wales by 2020 to avert a crisis in our NHS. We are frequently told about the crisis facing GPs. But did you know that many health problems can be resolved without the need for a GP appointment? Your local pharmacist is there to provide advice and support for a number of common complaints and in some cases, they can even provide treatment on prescription or free of charge.

There are a number of pharmacy services available across Wales. It’s worth Find your local pharmacy services, and using your pharmacy as your first point of contact for any non-emergency medical needs. Here’s a round-up of just some of the services on offer across Wales:

Choose Pharmacy

This service has been developed to help relieve pressure on GPs. It gives pharmacists access to a summary of a patient’s GP record, provided the patient gives their consent for them to view it. This improves patient safety and allows pharmacists to treat minor conditions through the Common Ailments Service (CAS). This allows you to see your pharmacist for a long list of common conditions, including hayfever and conjunctivitis, and you will receive advice and any necessary treatment free of charge. It is currently available in more than 220 pharmacies in Wales and the Welsh Government has made funding available to roll it out to all pharmacies in Wales by 2020.

Stop Smoking Services

All pharmacists are able to provide advice and support to those wishing to stop smoking, and in many pharmacies quitting aids such as nicotine patches, lozenges and chewing gum are available free of charge through the smoking cessation services available.

Triage and Treat

If you live in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion or Pembrokeshire, or are even visiting the area on holiday, you can access the triage and treat service. It is available in a number of pharmacies across the West Wales area, offering treatment for a range of low level injuries and potentially saving you a trip to A&E or the doctor. The list of injuries that they can treat includes:
• Minor cuts and wounds
• Sprains and strains
• Eye complaints e.g. sand in the eye
• Removal of items from the skin e.g. splinters or shell fragments
• Minor burns including sunburn.
You can get advice on managing the above injuries from any pharmacy, but this service enables pharmacists to offer additional onsite treatment.

Emergency Contraception

You don’t need to see your GP for emergency contraception (often referred to as the morning after pill). It is available to buy over the counter from most pharmacies, and many pharmacists are also registered to provide it free of charge following a short consultation to make sure it is appropriate for you to take. This will be done in a private consultation room and you don’t need to tell anyone else what you are there for – just ask for a private chat with the pharmacist.
At a time when the NHS is under enormous pressure, think about visiting your local pharmacist first – if they can’t help they will be able to refer you to the best person for your needs.