No matter where your customers are going on holiday, your pharmacy provides easy access to advice and medicines (and possibly vaccinations), to help them stay well while away. Victoria Goldman explores how you can bolster your service. 

According to the ABTA Travel Trends report 2018, despite world events, political upheaval and economic pressures, there are no signs of holidays going into decline. Indeed, over the past year, ABTA says that more British holidaymakers have taken more holidays than at any point in
the last five years. However, a savvier breed of holidaymaker has emerged, with people responding to challenging market conditions by planning further ahead to get the holiday they want, and by managing their holiday budgets more carefully.

With all of this extra planning, pharmacists are in an ideal position to help customers organise their holiday health needs in advance, creating a bespoke service to suit individual needs and budgets. It’s not only the obvious items that customers need to pack, such as a first aid kit, sun protection and insect repellents, but other health items too, such as certain over-the-counter medicines and anti- malarials (depending on the customer’s age, circumstances and destination).

Bespoke service

The ABTA report reveals that in 2018 over half of all holidaymakers are planning a city break and 47% are planning a beach holiday. All-inclusive packages are expected to perform particularly well, especially with families.

Farah Ali, general manager at Perrigo’s centre of excellence Warman-Freed Pharmacy, says pharmacies should have a holiday checklist to ensure staff can have a structured conversation with customers and capture all their travel needs.

“Travel merchandise including sun care, insect repellents and travel toiletries should be displayed together in a prime location in store over the summer months, in areas where there is high footfall,” she says. “In addition, there should be clearly visible information in-store to signpost for vaccines or items the pharmacy doesn’t stock, to ensure the customer is covered for all aspects of their travel and that it is fulfilling its duty in providing an advice service for the community.”

Pharmacy staff are key to informing and advising customers on the prevention of malaria, Ali believes. “They should be as up-to-date as possible on the disease, particularly as information is so readily available on the internet and people often come in with some knowledge. They should also be familiar with the updates and refer to the significant amount of print and digital materials that are available from recommended sources within the NHS and travel organisations.”

Most airlines have strict rules on luggage dimensions and some travellers are reluctant to pay extra for more baggage space. If customers travel with only cabin size bags, they may intend to buy toiletries, and even medicines, when they arrive. It’s important that pharmacists explain to customers that they should still pack a basic first aid kit with supplies for common holiday health issues (if possible) and take any relevant precautions. Combination products may be useful, such as insect repellents combined with sun creams. If they don’t have space to pack everything they need, they should have a comprehensive ‘to buy’ list for when they arrive, so they’re prepared for all eventualities.

“The idea of a holiday ‘basket’ is one that looks to cater for all of the potential pitfalls of a holiday,” says Joanna Mills, Learning Pharmacy and insight lead at Perrigo. “Ultimately pharmacists are really well placed through prescriptions for malaria or flu jab services to identify those in need of additional support. In my experience, the pharmacy team can be scared of a conversation that feels like ‘link selling’, but in this situation it’s simply offering the customer a complete care package for a great holiday.”

Specific needs

With many summer destinations, sun exposure is one of the biggest issues, carrying the short-term risk of sunburn and the long- term risk of skin cancer. “Some people still underestimate how strong the sun is and don’t realise that they are getting burnt until it’s too late,” says GP Dr Roger Henderson. “It’s important to always apply a high factor sunscreen before going out in the sun. Wearing a rash vest or T-shirt in the water is also a good way to avoid the back getting burnt. If customers do suffer from sunburn, they should make sure they drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and have a cold shower or bath to try to cool the skin down.”

Food hygiene can affect people on any type of holiday, and also at any destination, so customers should be aware of basic steps to take. They may require more specialist equipment, such as water sterilising tablets, if they are travelling to places with poor hygiene. Digestive symptoms can affect travellers as well, and not just the obvious problems such as diarrhoea or dehydration. “Travelling is just one in a long list of possible triggers for heartburn,” says GP Dr Sarah Jarvis. “Alcohol, sitting still or hunched over for long periods and a change in usual diet can all contribute.”

Earex brand manager, Miriam Luff, says the summer provides pharmacists with a lucrative opportunity to offer ear care products. “Air travel can cause ears to ‘pop’ as a result of the air pressure changing between the inner and outer ear,” she says. “Although this may go over time, travellers who suffer from this can experience ear infections and are at risk of producing excessive earwax, which can harden leading to irritation and, in some cases, loss of hearing. Another common ear problem for travellers is swimmer’s ear, a condition that affects one in 10 at some stage.”

Holly Turner, senior marketing director at Perrigo, says travellers are often confused by the difference between products within the insect repellent category and therefore require assistance in choosing the one that is right for their destination.

“The key is to group travel items together as typically customers will be visiting a pharmacy to purchase all their holiday essentials at once – it’s an exciting time and the holiday shop is one that people look forward to,” she believes.

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