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.

What is flu?

Influenza, or flu, is a respiratory illness affecting the lungs and airways, caused by a virus. While the symptoms are often similar to those of a common cold, they tend to develop more quickly, include muscular aches and pains, and result in you being too unwell to go about your daily activities. Some people are also more at risk of developing serious complications for example those aged over 65, pregnant women, people with long-term conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, and those with a weakened immune system.

Prevention is better than cure

The good news is, there are a number of things you can do to help reduce your risk of getting flu this winter. If you are aged 65 or over, pregnant, have an underlying health condition (particularly heart or lung conditions), a weakened immune system, or care for someone who would be at risk if you became ill, then you are likely to be eligible for a free flu vaccine on the NHS. These are available through your GP practice or from many pharmacies across Wales, so you can make an appointment at a time and place that is convenient for you. If you are not eligible for the free vaccine, most pharmacies will offer a private service so you can protect yourself, often for a cost of under £10.

It is also important to make sure you practice good hygiene to minimise your risk of getting flu or prevent spreading it to others. Always wash your hands with soap and water after coughing or sneezing, after going to the toilet, before and after handling food, and after coming into contact with someone who is unwell.  Make sure to clean surfaces such as computer keyboards, door handles and telephones regularly, and always use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze. Tissues should then be put in the bin as soon as possible after use.

What to do if you get flu

If you develop flu this winter, you can treat yourself at home by getting plenty of rest, drinking plenty of water and taking pain killers and decongestant medication to help relieve your symptoms. Your pharmacist can recommend the best ones for you. However, you should contact your GP if you are in the ‘at risk’ groups mentioned above, develop chest pain, shortness of breath or begin to cough up blood, or if your symptoms don’t start to improve after a week.

For more information on how to prevent the spread of flu, head to the Public Health Wales flu site.

Pharmagraphics

By Briony Hudson, Pharmacy historian, curator and lecturer

What do mandrake, medicinal treacle and the RPS headquarters have in common?

They all feature in Pharmagraphics , a new online “digital story” from the Wellcome Collection that explores the relationship between pharmacy and design across time.

I started work on the project with Julia Nurse, Wellcome Library’s Collections Researcher, earlier this year to produce six “chapters” that looked at different aspects of pharmacy history and how graphics, design and imagery played their part.  The aim was to link with the Wellcome Collection’s current exhibition ‘Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?’, and to draw on the fantastic collection of images both within Wellcome’s own collection and elsewhere including the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Museum . Read more Pharmagraphics

Why is handwashing important?

By Professor Ash Soni, President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Every day we carry millions of bacteria, some of which are naturally found on our bodies and some of which are germs that can make us ill or infect others.

Every day we have contact with people who don’t always wash their hands after going to the toilet, or preparing food.

Our survey on handwashing shows 84% of British adults don’t wash their hands for long enough to clean them of bacteria which can cause infections such as upset stomachs or pneumonia, or viruses which can cause colds and flu.

Regular handwashing with soap and water is the single best way to protect yourself and others from infections. The recommended time to spend washing your hands is 20 seconds, as long as it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday to you’ twice. Read more Why is handwashing important?

Creating a profession where you feel comfortable to be yourselves

by Robbie Turner, RPS Director for England

Recently I wrote a blog about  LGBTQ Pride celebrations describing how upset I was that LGBTQ young people were still suffering high levels of abuse, discrimination and mental health issues as a result of their identity. I promised to reflect on what more the RPS could do to support pharmacists to help young LGBTQ people and we are exploring how our future RPS campaigns can deliver this. Read more Creating a profession where you feel comfortable to be yourselves

What do pharmacists need to know about heartburn?

By Dr Pulak Sahay, Consultant Gastroenterologist and Senior Lecturer of Medicine, Leeds University

What is reflux?

It is estimated that there are over 10 million adults in the UK who suffer from heartburn (sometimes known as reflux disease or Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD)).  If left untreated or poorly controlled, this can cause considerable discomfort and lead to a poor quality of life. In extreme situations, untreated heartburn can cause a host of both gastrointestinal (GI) and non-GI complications, including severe complications such as Oesophageal Adenocarcinoma (OA) – known as Oesophageal Cancer. Read more What do pharmacists need to know about heartburn?

Pharmacy’s future is digital

By Sibby Buckle, Chair of the RPS Digital Forum

 

What is the RPS Pharmacy Digital Forum?

It’s where the profession comes together to forge the future.  We are an enthusiastic and committed group of 30+ members who agree that digital literacy across the profession needs urgent attention.

With representation from across the UK, and from all sectors of pharmacy – community, primary care and hospital, PMR suppliers, NHS Digital, DH, PSNC, PRSB, and NHS Improvement –  there is a real appetite to create the change needed to enable pharmacy to be truly integrated into the NHS and healthcare. Read more Pharmacy’s future is digital

Write a winning abstract for conferences

Poster display

Write a winning abstract and submit for our inaugural Winter Summit.

Want to hear about the latest innovations in medicines and pharmacy? Looking to get your M.Pharm project published in an international journal? Interested in a career in academia or pharmaceutical science?

Explore the latest innovations in pharmaceutical science and research and get your work published. Join us for the RPS Winter Summit!

 

A new event in the RPS calendar, the Winter Summit will bring together experts from within pharmacy and pharmaceutical science for a programme of cutting edge topics: big data, drug development and the future of education to name a few.

Submit an abstract

Abstract submissions for oral or poster presentation are welcomed from across the science and research spectrum, so whether you have been working in the lab or on a patient-facing project, we have an opportunity for you.

  • Pharmaceutical science and early stage clinical research will be published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology (Impact Factor 2.405)
  • Health service research and pharmacy practice will be published in the International Journal of Pharmacy Practice

For more information about the submissions process and guidance visit the webpage here

Get help from the RPS in writing your abstract

  • So what is an abstract? An abstract is a concise summary of a project that allows readers to quickly identify its novelty, rigour and potential impact. Writing an abstract is an opportunity to share evidence widely and is a key component of most professional conferences; it is also an excellent starting point for those new to research looking to get their work recognised.
  • Writing winning abstracts. An abstract should be a summary of a project with a clear aim and concise design, method and results with meaningful conclusion.

Join us on September 7th for an instructional webinar to help prepare your abstract. The webinar will review abstract structure and give helpful tips on judging criteria and common pitfalls

Submit your abstract by 5pm GMT on 11 September or book now to secure your place at the Winter Summit 2017.

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.

Pride 2017

By Robbie Turner, RPS Director for England

This weekend sees the Pride in London parade taking to the streets of the city with over 300 groups marching to fight for equality of the LGBTQ community.

Having watched the parade many times before I know that it is often seen as a celebration of what the LGBTQ community have achieved over the last five decades since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK. I certainly recognise this progress and as a gay man have always felt proud to be a member of a LGBTQ community which is in the main, welcoming, diverse and accepting of others.

But not every LGBTQ person has the positive experience I do and this can have a significant impact on their health. Research by METRO charity shows that 52% of young LGBT people reported self-harm either recently or in the past, compared to 25% of heterosexual non-trans young people. Also, 44% of young LGBT people have considered suicide compared to 26% of heterosexual non-trans people.

To say that 25 years after I came out, young people are still suffering high levels of abuse, discrimination and mental health issues is hugely upsetting. As a pharmacist, I know that there are always competing priorities on our time and resources. But, over this Pride in London weekend, I will be reflecting on what more I can do to help young LGBTQ people and how the Royal Pharmaceutical Society can support pharmacists to do the same.

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.