The start of school term triggers child health questions in the pharmacy

Each year, back-to-school sales around the country focus on uniforms, pencil cases and lunchboxes. But as children get ready to pack their school bags, it’s important that their health needs are remembered, too. For example, according to the Association of Optometrists, parents should be including a sight test in their back-to-school routine to ensure that their child’s vision isn’t being forgotten. Up to one in five children may have a sight problem that they don’t know about, yet poor eyesight can have a significant effect on children’s learning and behaviour.

The back-to-school pharmacy category covers a wide range of products – from head lice treatments, junior cold and flu relief and allergy medicines to immune-boosting supplements and nutritional support. So what are the key issues for the 2014 back-to-school season for pharmacy teams to focus on?

Nutrient boost

The government plans to introduce new guidelines for school meals from January to improve the range of healthy foods available. Children are still consuming high levels of sugar, saturated fats and salt.

Anita Clarke, senior marketing manager at Ceuta Healthcare, suggests that pharmacists take the opportunity of the back-to-school period to discuss the importance of good nutrition for children, especially in relation to brain function. ‘After the long summer break, some children can struggle to focus,’ she says. ‘We know from the government’s National Diet Nutrition Survey and data from the Health Supplement Information Service that children are not eating enough oily fish, often because they don’t like the texture. This is where good quality supplements can bridge the gap.’ The triple-strength Equazen formulation is being promoted during back-to-school time.

Vitamin D deficiency continues to be a growing concern, and the third annual National Vitamin D Awareness Week takes place from 21 to 26 October. BetterYou is working with stores, offering branded POS materials, product discounts and staff training about vitamin D levels. ‘With vitamin D hard to gain through diet alone, the UK’s cloudy weather and the overuse of high-factor sunscreens, parents are advised to give their children a vitamin D supplement,’ says managing director Andrew Thomas. ‘Our oral sprays have given consumers a fresh and exciting purchase option. Our newest children’s oral spray range includes DLuxInfant – the first daily oral spray to be suitable from birth – and DLuxJunior – the first daily oral spray for age five years onwards.’

According to BioCare, a dietary supplement such as Children’s OmegaBerry, Children’s Strawberry Bio-Acidophilus or Children’s Complete Complex can give an all-round boost to children’s daily nutritional intakes, especially in the case of fussy eaters.

Allergy prevention

According to HayMax managing director Max Wiseberg, the impact of airborne allergens is often ignored in relation to back-to-school health. ‘Ninety per cent of children with respiratory and skin allergies are allergic to dust allergens and 50 per cent are allergic to cat allergens,’ he says. ‘Dust can be a particular problem where children are asked to sit on the floor, which is often carpeted and attracts lots of dust. Cat and pet allergens are picked up on the clothing of children with pets and brought into school. HayMax allergen barrier balms were found to trap both dust and pet allergens in an independent study, says the brand.

Eczema may flare up as children deal with school stress or are exposed to common triggers. ‘Topical steroids are usually effective to quickly clear flare-ups of eczema in children,’ says Dr Adam Friedmann, consultant dermatologist at The Harley Street Dermatology Clinic in London. ‘However, it’s recommended that these are used over very short periods of time and under the clear direction of a doctor. There are alternative treatments for eczema, such as Reczema, a product launched earlier this year in the UK by Swedish company Secuvie,’ he suggests.

Immune support

Supporting the immune system should be a top priority coming into autumn and winter, according to Sharon Morey, nutritionist for Quest Vitamins. She recommends products from the range to help maintain children’s health. ‘Suitable Quest products include KidzBiotix chewable tablets (from age three years), which provide a tasty burst of friendly probiotic bacteria to support digestive and immune health,’ she says. ‘Brightstart Vitamin D and DHA drops (from five years) combine two important nutrients in one easy-to-use liquid form. For older children, Quest Vitamin C 500 chewable tablets can help build optimal immunity leading up to the cold winter season.’

Classrooms provide ideal breeding grounds for viruses to spread. Recent research conducted by Protexin Healthcare found that one in four children takes time off school in the first six weeks of the autumn term due to stomach upsets, colds and flu. Taking probiotic products such as Bio- Kult and Bio-Kult Infantis on a regular basis can help to ensure the gut is topped up with good bacteria, suggests the brand.

Inventor of NasalGuard, a gel that traps and blocks airbourne viruses, Ashok Wahi suggests that pharmacy teams make parents aware of the range of illnesses associated with the back-to- school season in good time. ‘Pharmacists should be discussing this before September, as prevention is better than cure,’ he says. He suggests that NasalGuard Cold & Flu Block Topical Gel can help to prevent children from getting ill in the first instance.

Research commissioned by Care has found that scratching and scarring are two of the top concerns for parents when it comes to the common childhood illness chickenpox. Nine out of 10 parents say they would use calamine lotion to ease symptoms despite there being no clinical evidence to support its use. ‘The red spots and blisters that appear are often really itchy and cause children to scratch continuously,’ says community pharmacist Sid Dajani, making children irritable and leading to sleep problems. ‘Care ViraSoothe Chickenpox Relief Cooling Gel and Spray Gel are odourless, simple to apply, suitable for the face and body and can be used on children as young as six months.’

Head lice management

The head lice market continues to grow, with Hedrin products leading the way. Hedrin has grown by 18 per cent in value and experienced 27 per cent unit growth since 2012. Caroline Wheeler, Hedrin’s marketing manager, suggests that head lice treatments should be available in front of the counter, as well as behind it. ‘Some parents can still be embarrassed about asking for products or advice, so if there is an opportunity for dual-positioning of products, this can really help,’ she says. ‘Market-leading products with strong TV presence will be the most requested, but it is important to ensure that you are up to date with the latest guidelines and able to help customers to choose a suitable product. Check out www.checktreatcomplete.com for Royal Pharmaceutical Society-accredited training, which takes just 30 minutes,’ she suggests.

A new entrant to the market is Vamousse, from manufacturer TyraTech through distributor Ceuta, a product that claims to kill 100 per cent of lice and eggs within 15 minutes with no need to reapply. The pesticide-free formulation works by dissolving the waxy exoskeleton, leading to water loss and quick death by dehydration. Vamousse kills the lice and the eggs essentially breaking the ‘cycle of reinfestation,’ says pharmacist Sultan ‘Sid’ Dajani. Reviewing the product, he calls the product ‘by far the most powerful [head lice] treatment I have ever seen’. An advertising campaign, ‘There’s a new sheriff in town’, features the slogan ‘High noon for head lice’.

Amanda Coplans of Oakwood Remedies, the manufacturer of the Nitty Gritty comb says that an epidemic of head lice often sets in a couple of weeks after the children return to school. Pharmacies can suggest that parents buy ‘the best-quality nit comb’ even if they are purchasing another head lice product. ‘The Nitty Gritty Comb gets rid of head lice, nits and “live” head louse eggs, and it’s available on prescription (free for children under 16). The Nitty Gritty Head Lice Solution can be used with the comb instead of conditioner or head lice treatments, and a couple of squirts of Nitty Gritty Defence Spray every day helps keep head lice at bay,’ she suggests.

Advertising has launched for Full Marks, and Derbac M Liquid has returned to stock, says Reckitt Benckiser. ‘If a customer comes into the pharmacy to make a head lice product purchase, it’s important that the pharmacist discusses treatment options to ensure the customer is fully aware of the different products available,’ says an RB spokesperson. ‘Derbac M is available again, and TV advertising to support Full Marks will be back on air from the beginning of August.’

P3 Category Panel

 Parents want to understand more about the conditions that affect their children and value the advice they receive from pharmacies.

Bina Patel, Kalsons Chemists, Essex ‘This is an important category for us because we’re close to infant, primary and secondary schools. We help parents to prepare for head lice and we also stock sundry products such as hairgrips in school colours. We also have a few children in the local area who are patients at Great Ormond Street Hospital and we ensure that the parents have all the medication at the start of the new term. Every so often there are situations where we have to liaise with the school nurse: one child was sent home from school with possible impetigo and it turned out to be a severe case of eczema. If a parent is concerned about their child being sluggish and tired all of the time I will ask what the child is eating at lunchtime to see how they can boost their energy levels.’

Pallavi Dawda, Masons Chemists, Coalville ‘This is a key category for us because we serve a population with a high number of school-age children. Our peak requests are in the first few weeks of the new term when we generally get asked a lot of questions about head lice to a peak in late September. Also key at this time are worming products, as well as treatments for childhood infections and conditions, including everything from chickenpox to slapped cheek. As a mum myself to school-age children, I know that parents want to understand more about the conditions that affect their children and value the advice they receive. The cost of a product is often the least on their mind – they want something that works. This is a good time to highlight the valuable advice that we give.’  

Nemesh Patel, AMG Pharmacy, Braintree ‘Every parent knows that coughs, colds and flu can be rife at the start of term. We train our pharmacy assistants to be the best first port of call as it is important to recognise symptoms and be on hand to offer recommendations. Common advice includes cough and cold remedies, gels for freezing or drying out verrucae/warts and a range of lotions and sprays to combat pesky nits. The head lice market is a key category in our pharmacy given the number of local schools in our area. We offer detector combs alongside the popular brands of Hedrin and Lyclear, for example. Our team endeavours to desensitise the issue and provide friendly, clinically accurate advice, including prevention techniques, which I feel encourages repeat business.’

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