Sending the children back to school has become something of a minefield for parents, as well as a stressful time for some children. How can pharmacy help?


Schools have been hitting the headlines in recent months with wellmeaning initiatives that seem to hit a nerve with busy families. Calls for fitness testing to be introduced to schools, along with more classroom-based fitness activities are probably more popular than draconian declarations about what’s allowed in a child’s lunchbox; one primary school was in the news after it banned cereal bars – despite offering pizza and chocolate fudge cake to children having school dinners. The school had asked parents ‘to ensure snacks with over 24g of sugar per 100g are not put in lunch boxes.’

Even though some schools are taking a slightly over-zealous approach to children’s health, it’s not actually down to the government. Sean Kelleher from Public Health England confirmed that, ‘there is no official government advice for children’s packed lunches. There are school food standards for school meals which are led by the DfE and which PHE were consulted on.

The head teacher of the school can set a packed lunch policy if they wish; otherwise it’s up to the parents.’ Most parents want to make sure that their children are well fed and getting the right nutrition to support their development and education, and a growth in supplements targeted at children reflects their concerns. Children can be resistant to taking traditional supplements – their size and taste being offputting – so stocking a good range of children’s options is a great way to support families at back-to-school time.

D for deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency is a key concern, with the UK government recommending vitamin D3 supplementation for young children from six months to five years old, and suggesting that children from dark-skinned ethnic minorities are particularly at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Dr David Mantle, nutritional adviser at Pharma Nord UK, recommends Pharma Nord's Bio-Vitamin D3 for children; small pearls of soft gelatine, which are easy to swallow. In addition to D3, he suggests ‘omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil have been shown to offer health benefits for children as well as adults.

In particular, DHA can contribute to normal brain and eye development, aiding concentration.’ A deficiency has even been linked to a greater risk of conditions such as ADHD. Pharma Nord's BIOmega-3 Kids is unique in that the capsules are 100 per cent fish-derived, but with a natural lemon flavour, which appeals to kids, and child-friendly packaging.

Beat school phobia

Supplements are also useful for children who find returning to school a stressful experience; one in five children claims to experience ‘school phobia’ at some point in their time at school. Mindfulness teacher Kelly Robson has issued a list of mindfulness top tips for parents in association with Rescue Gummy Stars, which could be used as part of a back-to-school display.

The top tips, available from Nelsons, that pharmacy teams can have available to discuss with parents, include: 􀀀

  • Keep breathing
  • Feel your feet
  • Pay attention
  • Sleep well
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Don’t let difficult thoughts carry you away.

Be clear with pharmacy advice for parents

Pharmacies are ahead when it comes to selling head lice remedies. With the majority of parents buying their preparations from the pharmacy, the market is healthy. Pharmacies are also wellplaced to offer advice on a category which can be confusing and, in some cases, embarrassing for parents and children. With an increasing number of products and types of treatment for head lice, it can be enough to overwhelm pharmacies, let alone customers.

Sultan’ Sid’ Dajani, community pharmacist member, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, suggests that the main role of the pharmacist is often to reassure parents that head lice are common and nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. He adds, ‘It’s great to be able to offer a link sale with the Vamousse Head Lice Treatment. Vamousse Protective Shampoo is a great product to recommend to parents with more than one child or even for their own use, to help nip wider infestation in the bud.

‘Our job is to make our customers’ lives easier by answering their questions, providing solutions and putting their minds at rest. When advising on head lice treatments, Vamousse gives peace of mind by ticking all the boxes – it’s fast acting, 100 per cent effective on contact and, most importantly, there’s no need to reapply.’ The embarrassment factor is still evident, Hedrin’s 2014 online audit found that 23 per cent of parents preferred to ask the internet for advice on eliminating head lice, turning mainly to social media sites and parenting networks.

One site, Mumsnet, has around 224,000 active head lice conversation threads. Hedrin brand manager Caroline Wheeler says ‘The head lice category is growing on all measures which creates a great opportunity for pharmacists. However, the embarrassment factor, which drives some shoppers to go online, needs to be tackled.

Pharmacists can do this by offering parents private consultations to ensure discreet advice is given and parents feel at ease talking about infestations. This will also give pharmacists the opportunity to explain to parents that there is no need to feel stigmatised, as many parents view head lice as a sign of neglect or poor parenting.

‘Pharmacists can explain that head lice are a normal part of childhood and family life and can be easily eradicated using the correct treatment. Many parents may have been misinformed through online sources and they need to be ready to re-educate parents with correct information. ‘Pharmacists are also in a good position to explain the importance of choosing head lice products that have robust and published clinical data behind them to ensure effective eradication of infestations.’

A national TV advertising campaign for Hedrin will run in the key back-to-school periods, including at the end of the summer holidays in August and September and at Christmas. This significant investment in TV advertising will help to increase awareness among parents and drive footfall into pharmacy. Hedrin Once has recently been awarded the Product Stamp of Approval from Mumsnet after 250 parents tested it.

Mumsnet only awards the Product Stamp of Approval if a product scores at least 75 per cent positive feedback. Hedrin Once scored an average of 88 per cent across all feedback categories, with 94 per cent of mums saying they were satisfied with the product and 92 per cent reporting that they would recommend it to others. Hedrin has also recruited media medic Dr Ranj, who is a popular medical personality among parents.

Dr Ranj will be working with Hedrin to promote best practice advice when applying head lice treatments to ensure effective results. Hedrin is also embarking on a new digital campaign to create a new website and build engaging and informative content for parents.

The ‘Once a Week, Take a Peek’ campaign has been set up to educate parents on the need to check their children’s hair regularly and as a normal part of their family’s personal hygiene routine. Pharmacists can direct concerned patients towards the initiative’s website ( and Facebook page for best practice information, as well as free instructional leaflets that are available for each stage of the process.


Fiona McElrea, Whithorn Pharmacy, Whithorn ‘Children’s medicine in general is very important to us, and we prescribe products for head lice on the minor ailments scheme here. It’s an all-year-round problem that doesn’t seem to go away. I’ve been to the local school to present to the parents’ council and produced information leaflets to give to the children to take home, to try and help families to treat the condition properly. We’ve worked alongside the school nurse as well. Parents do find the products are expensive in this category. Some people would like to have some in the house so they can treat it straightaway if needed. Under the minor ailments scheme they can only get hold of product after the child is already showing symptoms.’


Jackie Lewis, Lewis Pharmacy, Exmouth ‘It’s an important time of the year, because the back-to-school time gets more parents and families in through the pharmacy door. For example, when there is a head lice outbreak, schools will advise parents that the problem can be treated and tell them to visit a pharmacy for products and treatment information. They may name our pharmacy, and that helps to increase footfall. Full Marks and Hedrin are probably our best sellers for head lice, and we also recommend the bug-busting kits wherever we can. The most crucial thing to get right is definitely the advice that we give. Parents need to know when to re-treat and when to seek further help from us. This is advice that parents get from pharmacy that they can’t get from other outlets.’


Shaheen Bhatia, Broadway Pharmacy, Bexleyheath ‘I’d say it’s one of our top priorities at this time of year. Parents want to know how to boost their children’s immune systems before they go back to school, to avoid catching coughs and colds. At the same time we can start promoting flu vaccines. I think London is wanting pharmacy to do more routine children in London, but we’re still waiting to hear. Pharmacies that offer a private PGD can offer the nasal vaccination to children already. The main brands we sell for head lice are Vamousse and Lyclear, and Lyclear is on the minor ailments scheme. People are waiting four to six weeks for a GP appointment. We tell them that if they come to us first and need to be referred, then they are likely to get their appointment more quickly.’


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