What is the best thing?
"What's the best thing for a cough?"
"What have you got for a back ache? I've tried everything and nothing works."
"I got bitten by something and now I have this huge welt. Do you think I should see the doctor?"
"What have you got to treat a cold sore?"
As a pharmacist, I've been asked these questions many times. The answer to all of these questions is....tell me more. Often the "best" treatment can only be decided on after more questions have been asked.
There are so many products available in the pharmacy these days. How do you decide if you should buy the "all-in-one" or the "cold and flu" or the "cold and sinus"? I start by asking, "What are your symptoms?”. People may ask for something for their cough because it's their biggest complaint, but they may also be experiencing a stuffy, runny nose, or a fever, or other symptoms. If it is just a cough and there are no other symptoms, I have more questions. I may ask the person if they take any medications for high blood pressure. This is because there are some prescription medications for high blood pressure that can also cause a dry cough as a side effect. Or, I may ask them if they are asthmatic. Before asthmatics become wheezy, they may experience a cough as their first sign of lung inflammation. If the cough is due to asthma, the patient may be better to restart their asthma inhalers than to buy a syrup from the pharmacy.
After a few questions, we may learn that it is just a lingering cough from a never-ending cold. Then probably a syrup with dextromethorphan (DM) would be the best choice. Once we both know what medication is needed, then the patient can decide on flavors and best price options.
Asking your pharmacist for advice about minor ailments isn't limited to just the over the counter store shelves anymore. Pharmacists in Saskatchewan can now write for prescription medications for some health problems.
Returning to our second complaint, what can you do if you have a back ache or other muscle pain and what you have taken for it hasn't worked? As your pharmacist, I would again ask some questions first. “How long have you had the pain?" Pain that has lasted for more than 7 days should be examined and diagnosed by a physician. I would also ask, "What do you think has caused the pain?” If you aren't sure why you have the pain that would be another reason I would want you to see your doctor before trying anything else.
If you were out for your first bike ride of the season and know that your back hurts from being a little out of shape, then we could consider some prescription pain medication options. After more questioning about allergies and medical conditions, I would prescribe a week of anti-inflammatory medications if appropriate. And of course, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (R.I.C.E.) treatment is always the first aider’s recommendation with any muscle injury.
Muscle strains, bug bites, and cold sores are three of the minor ailments pharmacists can now prescribe for. We can also help you with allergic rhinitis (hay fever), acid reflux, canker sores, hemorrhoids, eczema, and more.
Expect a follow up phone call from your pharmacist if they have prescribed a treatment for you. We want to know if you are feeling better and if the medication has worked. If it hasn't, we may advise you to make an appointment with your physician. If it worked great, we want to know that too!
Your pharmacist is always available to answer your questions. But before we can help, we may have a few questions of our own.
Cheetham's Pharmacy514 Queen St, Saskatoon, S7K 0M5
306-653-5111, 1-800-695-4788, 306-653-1661 Fax
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