It’s not only the summer when travel health advice is needed by customers

Winter breaks are a popular way for those who can afford to do so to escape the relentless rain of the British winter, but pharmacies seem to be missing a trick when it comes to capitalising on opportunities for helping them prepare for their holidays. City break or long-haul, beach or ski slope, high-risk or lowrisk, travellers need to be encouraged to visit the pharmacy before they set off.

However, earlier this year it was revealed that, despite recent campaigns starting to promote the use of pharmacy, YouGov surveys showed a disappointing increase in awareness for inpharmacy travel vaccinations and services to just 22 per cent. It seems that pharmacies have some work to do if they are to encourage people in as the first port of call for travel health.

Many pharmacies offer antimalarials, but in 2013, for example, 1,501 people in the UK developed malaria after travelling abroad. Most cases of malaria occur in travellers returning from countries where the infection is common – that last-minute winter sun holiday – and it’s especially common in people who normally live in the UK, but may have lived abroad in the past and think they are immune to the disease.

Travellers visiting friends or relatives abroad have also been identified as the least likely to take antimalarial medication, so it’s worth making sure that your customers know about the importance of anti-malarial drugs when they are in pharmacy stocking up on things for their trip abroad.

According to some reports, travellers are also risking their health by opting to buy antimalarials online and when they arrive at their destination, as the drugs can be cheaper to obtain, even though medicines are more safely purchased from a reliable source.

Earlier this year, YouGov  surveys showed a disappointing increase in awareness for in-pharmacy  travel vaccinations and services to just 22 per cent

If you offer a travel service in your pharmacy, make a point of advising customers not to buy antimalarial drugs from unregulated suppliers. Not only has the sale of counterfeit products been reported over the internet, but antimalarial medication bought abroad can also be fake, and should be avoided.

Martin Wiselka, a consultant in infectious diseases at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, stresses that taking the correct drugs and getting immunisations up-to-date prior to travelling abroad is a must, especially with malaria cases being on the increase in the UK after travellers returning from foreign countries. ‘It is important for anyone to take malaria prophylaxis, even if they are returning to their country of origin, as any previous immunity to malaria will disappear quickly. Immunity to malaria is only partial and not complete; you can keep getting malaria even while you live in Africa, but recurrent attacks tend to be less severe. Immunity starts to wear off pretty quickly when you move, probably gradually, within a matter of months.’

Mr Wiselka is surprised if people are risking their health by waiting until they arrive abroad to source cheaper anti-malarial drugs. ‘Although I have not heard of anybody getting their antimalarials locally, I guess they might do to save some money. The danger is that if they wait, they might be too late and of course if sourced from a pharmacy they don’t know, they might end up with drugs that are less effective.’

West Africa might have fallen out of favour as a destination as Ebola persists as a risk, and the World Health Organisation is coordinating a global response coalition to the Ebola crisis. Advice for travellers to Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria who might be worried about Ebola risk needs to be communicated clearly:

  • Avoid contact with blood or bodily fluids of a patient and with possibly contaminated objects
  • Avoid contact with wild animals, alive or dead, and consumption of ‘bush meat’
  • Avoid having unprotected sexual intercourse
  • Avoid habitats that might be populated by bats, such as caves, isolated shelters or mining sites
  • Wash hands regularly, using soap or antiseptics.

Pharmacies are being encouraged to display posters and offer information about symptoms for people returning from high-risk countries.

Travel tools

Germolene is keen to promote their key travel product, the 30g Antiseptic Cream, which contains an anaesthetic, unlike other mainstream brands available in the market, along with New Skin, a liquid plaster. Brand manager Claire Montgomery, suggests that the brand is a good fit for winter travel, especially for travellers heading into colder climes, as, ‘People use New Skin in the winter to not only help protect cuts and grazes but also help with chapped hands caused by the colder weather.’

Emma Wright, brand manager at Nelsons, suggests that as many winter travellers are taking long-haul journeys in search of the sun, pharmacies should recommend products such as Travella to help ease any symptoms of travel sickness. She adds, ‘Interest in natural healthcare products has been increasing and when it comes to travel it’s helpful if pharmacies stock a wide range of products. Products such as Nelsons Travella can help the travel-sick holiday maker have a more pleasant journey.’

Boston Healthcare has said that it is finalising the development of an improved formulation for its Uvistat sun cream. Uvistat is also planning to announce two new sun care products that will be first to market for 2015. Colin Darroch fromBoston Healthcare adds, ‘We are continuing to develop our work with Melanoma UK in the effort to convey the message about enjoying the sun safely and we are working on some interesting initiatives that involve two sports personalities in 2015, along with a continuation of our relationship with the AA.’

SunSense UK is reminding holidaymakers to seek advice from local pharmacies when they head off for winter holidays, as many travellers forget that sun care is an issue in winter. SunSense offers pharmacies two key products: SunSense Daily Face SPF 50+ (which has recently been reformulated to include additional anti-aging ingredients, such as Vitamin E and 3% niacin amide) and SunSense Lip Balm, with an SPF 50+, which should be recommended for regular use throughout the day.

Travellers taking gap years that encompass travel through many countries would be well advised to stock up with rehydration products to avoid dehydration – especially if they are travelling to countries such as India, Thailand or Africa where the water quality can’t be assured. O.R.S Hydration Tablets, for general hydration, are being promoted for young travellers, with a £1 million TV advertising campaign to June next year on both Sky Sports and ITV. Other promotional activities from Clinova have included sampling more than one million trial size packs at train stations with high footfall, including Leeds, Manchester, London Victoria and Kings Cross, promotions at universities and summer festivals including Glastonbury and Reading.

Comment

Jayu Shah, CW Andrew Pharmacy, London ‘We have customers coming in at this time of year who are going to a warm place for some winter sun or to a cold place for skiing and we sell over the counter products accordingly. If customers are going somewhere where malaria could be a problem, we advise them about antimalarials, plus probiotics, painkillers, plasters, anti-diarrhoea tablets and sun lotion are good purchases for travelling. We stock a wide range of sun lotions throughout the year and suggest it to travellers who are going skiing as well as those going away for some winter sun. We only stock high factors with the lowest being an SPF of 30, as customers today are more educated about the dangers of the sun. The days of customers coming in to buy film for their cameras before a holiday are gone but we do offer a passport photo service in store, which is popular for people who need a photo for a visa or for a passport ahead of their trip. The Mexican Embassy is close by here and they send people here for their photos. We plan to offer a travel vaccine service in the future as we do it in my other branch and it is doing very well.’

Pallavi Dawda, Masons Chemists, Coalville ‘Winter travel is not a huge category for us, but we stock the same products we do all year round albeit in smaller displays to help with any travel need. During the winter months, much of the travel is to more exotic locations as customers are on the hunt for some winter sun. For this reason, we always ensure that we have a comprehensive range of insect repellents in stock along with standard sun care products to offer to customers who need them.’

Alan Bradley, Cornwell’s Chemist, Newcastle-under-Lyme ‘Our customers sometimes like to get away in the winter and this helps to maintain our sales of travel sickness medicines through this time of the year. We find that the most popular medications over-the-counter for winter travel are Stugeron and Kwells. We also offer the travel bands, which are popular with customers who do not want an oral medication. On the whole, however, we rarely see sales of the most common over-the-counter products relating to travel, such as sun protection, during the winter period.’

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