A ‘head to toe’ look at the children’s health category, highlighting recent innovations and opportunities for independent pharmacies


A 2016 survey commissioned on behalf of the Vicks brand found that a quarter of parents are unclear about which medicine to use when their child is ill. This knowledge gap means that it is vital for pharmacy teams to be armed with up to date information of which treatments can be recommended over the counter (OTC) and when.

Head start
Head lice infestations are most common in school age children, and parents often feel distressed and embarrassed when they discover ‘nits’ in their child’s hair. However, pharmacy teams are in a position to debunk myths (for instance, it’s not true that head lice only live in dirty hair) and advise on detection combing techniques as well as treatments that can be bought OTC and used at home.

Hedrin is the UK’s most popular head lice brand and has been on the market for 10 years. In 2017, its manufacturer is continuing to invest heavily in research, development and marketing. The brand’s marketing manager Caroline Wheeler says: “We’ve spent £8 million on research, development and clinical trials to ensure the Hedrin range meets the needs of every family.”

Hedrin aims to increase awareness amongst parents while driving footfall into pharmacies. “Hedrin is continuing its support campaign for the range on TV and online, with our ‘no drama’ tagline. The national TV and digital display advertising campaign will highlight to parents that its products can help take the fuss and bother out of dealing with head lice,” explains Ms Wheeler.

Last year, Hedrin packaging was redesigned and a Stubborn Egg Loosening Lotion was added to the range. This lubricant oil is designed to loosen the chemical bond between lice eggs and hair, making them easier to remove.

Comforting colic
According to NHS Choices, the frequent crying that is symptomatic of colic affects one in five babies. Infacol is currently the UK’s top selling colic treatment with a 56.6 per cent market share (IRI data December 2016). But research conducted on behalf of the brand in April last year found that parents are still hesitant when discussing colic with pharmacists.

Nick Lang, UK head of marketing for Teva UK, which owns the Infacol brand, says that infant colic is very distressing for parents, especially when it causes a lack of sleep.

“The recent research indicates that parents rarely consult pharmacists about colic,” he says, “so a proactive approach might be needed when it comes to discussing treatments and support services. Even in the digital age, the value of word of mouth recommendations and community support should not be underestimated.”

Pharmacists who would like to present a range of colic relief options to parents may be interested in Dr Brown’s Natural Flow Option Baby Bottles, launched in April 2016. The convertible bottles are designed with a removable vent which creates a vacuum-free area, removing air bubbles from the feed and therefore reducing wind. The vent can be removed to leave a regular teat system when the baby feels better.

Enterosgel, meanwhile, is a drug-free oral suspension for babies and children suffering from colic and reflux. It can be taken as a drink before feeding and mixed with breast milk, water, juice or semi-liquid baby food, and is suitable from birth upwards.

Eczema relief
Pharmacists and their teams can offer advice to parents on the relief of dry skin and eczema, which the National Eczema Society estimates affects one in five children in the UK.

A range of emollient products are available to manage the condition and minimise the chance of flare-ups during which symptoms worsen.

The QV Skincare range, for example, is designed to soothe and protect against the irritation caused by dry skin conditions, including eczema and psoriasis. Brand spokesperson Dr Fabrizio Spada explains that pharmacists can help parents combat their child’s ‘itch-scratch’ cycle, which can exacerbate skin sensitivity and lead to infections. “Pharmacists can play an invaluable role in helping parents by offering them advice on common irritants to avoid, such as lanolin, propylene glycol, fragrance and soap, as well as recommendations for routine use of emollients, which is the best way to prevent eczema flare ups.”

Mahi Naturals also hopes to break the itch-scratch cycle with its Hope’s Relief Topical Spray. This moisturising and calming product contains 10 natural botanical ingredients, including aloe vera, calendula, evening primrose, tea tree and borage oils. Samples, education and promotions are currently being offered to encourage pharmacists to trial the products. Meghna Patel, director at Mahi Naturals, says: “We are specifically promoting the moisturising spray for babies and children as the delivery system is quick and non-messy. It is fast-acting and so is perfect for dry, itchy skin prone to eczema. The spray instantly calms irritated skin that children do not want you to touch. Mums love our ‘no touch – no ouch’ application.”

The ‘nasty cold’
Vicks Consumer Research conducted in December 2016 reveals that 52.2 per cent of parents acknowledge that rest is one of the most important factors in making a sick child feel better, while two out of five parents rely on medicine. It is here that pharmacists have an important role to play. John Holmes, pharmacist and head of medical affairs at Teva UK, explains: “Pharmacists provide invaluable healthcare advice in the first instance to any patient seeking cough and cold treatment over the counter. When it comes to children, pharmacists have the experience and expertise to give parents guidance on how to treat symptoms and make children feel comfortable when they are poorly.”

A One Poll Omnibus survey conducted on behalf of Ceuta Healthcare’s Children’s Chloraseptic found that 43 per cent of children eat less, 31 per cent struggle to drink and 27 per cent can’t sleep when they are suffering from a sore throat. “Children’s Chloraseptic delivers fast-acting pain relief within seconds and that’s what parents need to be able to provide when children are suffering from a sore throat,” says independent pharmacist Noel Wicks.

Interestingly, it seems that digital technology is also favoured by parents when their children are unwell. The Vicks survey found that 29.9 per cent of parents admitted to using a digital tablet to keep their children entertained during an illness.

A fantastic opportunity for pharmacies
According to Public Health England (PHE)’s current advice, children aged between one and four years should be given a 10 microgram vitamin D supplement every day. PHE also states that “as a precaution, all babies under one year should have a daily 8.5 to 10 microgram vitamin D supplement.” However, children who have more than 500ml of infant formula a day do not need any additional vitamin D as infant formula milk is already fortified with the nutrient.

A range of vitamin D supplements are available for pharmacies to sell OTC. For instance, Thornton and Ross has recently launched Fultium Daily D3, which comes in a convenient drop format for children, who are unlikely to be able to swallow tablets or capsules.

“Fultium Daily D3 is a new, high quality, pharmaceutical grade vitamin D supplement that has been formulated specifically to meet the recommended guidelines and is available in pharmacies without a prescription,” says brand manager Rob Purkis.

Mr Purkis believes that vitamin D supplementation presents “an exceptional opportunity” for pharmacies. “We believe pharmacists have a hugely important role to play in helping people understand the importance of vitamin D supplementation,” he says. “Thornton & Ross is exceptionally committed to the category and to providing support for pharmacy teams across the UK. We have invested significantly in educational support for pharmacists in the form of CPD training and literature, in order to highlight the exceptional opportunity the guidelines offer the pharmacy community.”

Alongside this, Thornton & Ross also aims to drive consumer awareness of vitamin D and the Fultium brand via in-store marketing support, advertising campaigns, sales aids and merchandising. “The new Fultium Daily D3 website provides information for both consumers and pharmacy teams,” adds Mr Purkis. “Pharmacy teams can take advantage of CPD training and literature at www.fultiumdailyd3.co.uk.”

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