10 things to ask your pharmacist before seeing your doctor

Posted on: 15 December 2014 by Sarah Brewer

Dr Sarah Brewer says your pharmacist can offer a speedier solution to common health complaints - but only if you ask!

10 things to ask your pharmacist before seeing your doctor

Many health conditions can now be treated at the pharmacy with medicines which were once prescription only, but that can now be bought over-the-counter. The pharmacist is likely to ask a few questions to screen you for ‘red flag’ symptoms first in case you do need to see your doctor after all. Some pharmacies even run a minor ailment services that deals with specific common health problems and provide medicines on the NHS, either with a prescription charge or for free if you’re exempt from charges (for example if you’re over 60). To find a pharmacy running a minor ailment scheme, visit www.nhs.uk/Service-Search.

Can I treat dandruff?

Shampoos containing the antifungal agent, ketoconazole are effective at clearing the yeasts that cause dandruff, and in reducing the associated inflammation seborrheic dermatitis). Other conditions to exclude: scalp psoriasis.

Can I treat cystitis?

Uncomplicated cystitis with burning or stinging when passing urine can often be treated with over-the-counter medicines. If you are pregnant or have blood in the urine or a fever you should contact your doctor, however.

Did you know?

Taking cranberry tablets can help to prevent cystitis. [eg Cranberry Double Strength £10.45 for 120 tablets from www.healthspan.co.uk]

Can you help me stop smoking?

Many pharmacists offer a stop smoking service with an advisor to help you create a personalised Quit plan. Medicines to help overcome nicotine addiction are also available.

How do I overcome recurrent Candida?

Recurrent yeast infections (Candida, thrush) can be treated with over-the-counter oral capsules or topical creams. Sometimes it’s a sign of iron deficiency or diabetes – you may need to see your doctor for screening.

Did you know?

Candida yeasts can live in the intestines to trigger recurrent thrush symptoms when conditions are right. Probiotics may help (eg Super20 Pro £15.95 for 60 caps from www.healthspan.co.uk.   Read Overcoming Candida: Nutritional and Medical Approaches by Dr Sarah Brewer (£3.93 Kindle, £6.35 paperback from Amazon).

Can I take these medicines together?

Many pharmacies offer a Medicines use Review to look at the medicines you take to see how you’re getting on with them, and ensure they go together.

How do I treat indigestion?  

Occasional indigestion linked with stress or overeating is common. If simple antacids aren’t strong enough, tablets that switch off acid production are available over the counter. Recurrent indigestion should be assessed medically however. Did you know? Milk Thistle is a traditional herbal medicine licensed to treat over-indulgence, indigestion and upset stomach (eg Milk Thistle £11.95 for 30 caps from www.healthspan.co.uk.)

What do I do with my old medicines?

If you have old medicines that are out of date or unwanted, don’t throw it away yourself, but take them to a pharmacy for safe disposal.

Do I need ‘flu vaccination?

Between August 1 and March 31 the following year, some pharmacists are able to give you a ‘flu vaccination if you fall within a nationally agreed eligible group. If you are thinking about vaccination, ask if it is available.

How do I treat a cold?

Over-the-counter remedies are designed to reduce nasal congestion, ease a sore throat and reduce fever, aches and pains. Pelargonium extracts, when taken at the first signs of a cold can shorten the length of symptoms. Did you know? Pelargonium is a traditional herbal medicine licensed to treat sort throats, coughs and runny noses (eg Pelargonium Cold Relief £12.45 for 30 tabs from www.healthspan.co.uk.)

What’s the best constipation treatment? 

Constipation is an embarrassing condition that can be due to not eating enough fibre (from fruit, vegetables, wholegrain cereals) and not drinking sufficient fluids. It can also result from some conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or from the side effects of certain medicines. Your pharmacist can check if your medicines are at fault, and provide effective laxatives. A persistent change in bowel habit should be reported to your doctor however (especially if you pass blood or notice other symptoms such as weight loss, fatigue or feeling unwell).

Did you know?

Taking fibre supplements can help to maintain healthy bowels.

Dr Sarah Brewer is a licensed doctor, medical nutritionist, and the award-winning author of over 60 popular health books.

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