The everyday health complaints your pharmacist can treat

Alexandra Thompson
·4-min read
Shot of a young pharmacist helping an elderly customer
Pharmacists can recommend over-the-counter treatments for minor health complaints like rashes, aches and hay fever (Posed by models, Getty Images)

The GP is most people's first port of call when worrying symptoms strike. Surgeries are often inundated, however, so rather than competing for an elusive appointment, it's worth remembering that everyday health complaints can be resolved on your high street.

From sunburn and rashes to cystitis and hay fever, your local pharmacy can treat a host of minor medical concerns.

Read more: How to spot if a cough is coronavirus or hay fever

Female pharmacist holding medicine bottle giving advice to customer in chemist shop or pharmacy
As experts in medicines, pharmacists can help patients take their prescription safely. (Stock, Getty Images)

Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, told Yahoo UK: "Pharmacists have been on the frontline throughout this pandemic, giving the public rapid access to care and advice, supporting critical care in hospitals and delivering life-saving vaccinations.

"The under-utilisation of pharmacists' clinical skills is one of the biggest scandals of modern day healthcare.

"As the NHS looks to provide more integrated care, pharmacists across health settings will be essential to supporting patient safety and getting the best value from medicines.

"They will also be central to reducing health inequalities, as well as meeting national ambitions on the earlier detection and treatment of high-risk conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease."

Pharmacists are experts in medicines, with every clinic dispensing NHS prescriptions, disposing of out-of-date medication and offering advice on healthy living.

As qualified healthcare professionals – who train for five years – pharmacists can recommend over-the-counter treatments for aches and pains, sore throats, coughs, colds and flu.

"We want people to see that pharmacists can be a first port of call for minor ailments or medicines advice ahead of a GP visit, rather than simply somewhere they get their medicines after a doctor's appointment," Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist at Boots UK, told Yahoo UK.

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Rather than waiting for a GP appointment, pharmacies are often open weekends and into the evening, to help calm everything from earache to pink-eye, or even a teething baby.

"In addition to their traditional role of dispensing medicines, pharmacists have a wealth of knowledge," said Donovan.

"Our most commonly asked questions include advice on aches and pains, coughs and colds, skin rashes, hay fever and eczema."

Some pharmacies go further, offering emergency contraception, stop-smoking services and advice on how to maintain a healthy weight.

Others provide chlamydia screening and treatment services, as well as the facilities to measure a customer's blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels.

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"We offer a wide range of pharmacy services to support you when you need it most – everything from our cystitis test and treat service to acne clinics, mole scanning services and our erectile dysfunction clinic," said Donovan.

"We also offer COVID-19 [the disease caused by the coronavirus] testing, and a range of both NHS and private vaccination services, including winter flu jab and pneumonia, and more recently, a COVID-19 vaccination service."

If more advanced treatment is required, a pharmacist and their support team can advise when to see a GP, optician or dentist.

Watch: Give your medicine cabinet a 'check up', says pharmacist

As experts in medicines, pharmacists can be particularly useful if a patient misunderstands their prescription, such as their drug dose or how to take it safely. 

Many pharmacies also have a private consultation room, if you prefer a little privacy.

"Pharmacists offer a wide range of services to support you to get the best from your medication, including reviewing new medicines you have been prescribed by your GP or helping you to get the right technique to make the most from your inhaler," Niamh McMillanm, Superdrug's pharmacy superintendent, told Yahoo UK.

Taking advantage of pharmacies may be particularly important amid the coronavirus outbreak.

"The pandemic has put greater pressure on the NHS than in normal times, but our pharmacies have remained open throughout to offer healthcare advice and services from our highly trained pharmacists," said Donovan.

"Community pharmacies are already helping to relieve pressure on stretched NHS services, helping to free up GP appointments and supporting the primary care network – and I believe we can do more still." 

Watch: Pharmacist administers coronavirus vaccine to bedbound woman