In a mid-June issue of The New York Times, readers were greeted with the type of banner-like headline usually reserved for momentous events like a presidential election or global calamity. "'A Momentous Day': New York and California Lift Most Virus Restrictions," the headline blared, announcing that two of the nation's more populated states had largely rolled back COVID-19-related restrictions, following the vaccination of more than 70 percent of adults.
As the Times' exuberant headline makes clear, there is much to celebrate this year. Americans who spent Summer 2020 largely tethered to their homes, unable to travel to favorite vacation destinations, attend summer camps, or enjoy other rites of summer, seem eager to make up for lost time.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, for example, the American Automobile Association (AAA) projected more than 37 million people would travel 50 miles or more from home, an increase of 60 percent from last year, when just 23 million traveled. Hotel rates and airfares have crept back up, as demand has surged, and the chief management officer for Xantera, the company that manages concessions and hotels for the U.S. National Park Service, reports "the pent-up demand is real."
But with this newfound joy of a return to summer fun comes the usual assortment of bumps, bruises, and other types of maladies that accompany outdoor activities. For pharmacists, this brings the need to ensure shelves are stocked with easily-accessible products including bug spray, sunscreen, aloe, antiseptics, and yes, cold medicine.
HealthMart Pharmacy, an affiliate of McKesson, compiled a list of six common summer illnesses that pharmacists should be prepared to address. That list includes:
- Summer Colds. Colds are no fun at any time of the year, but especially during the warm summer months. Although the viruses that cause summer colds may be different from their cold-weather cousins, the treatments are largely the same: Oral decongestants, fluids, oral anti-inflammatories, nasal saline rinses, throat lozenges, and plenty of tissues.
- Heat-related issues. McKesson reminds us that while excessive heat poses a risk to everyone (including animals), older people are especially vulnerable. Pharmacists have an important role to play by reminding elderly patients about the need to avoid the heat and the importance of staying hydrated. In addition, all patients can benefit from OTC products including fans, cooling body towels, misting devices, and of course, a freezer stocked with ice pops and ice cream treats.
- Asthma. Heat, humidity, pollen and weed allergens pose increased risks of attacks among asthma sufferers. Pharmacists can help by reminding people, especially younger patients, to follow their medication protocols and to always have their inhaler with them.
- Food poisoning. McKesson notes that foodborne illnesses spike during the summer months due to the propensity of bacteria to multiply faster in warmer temperatures, and the difficulty of ensuring safe food handling in an outdoor environment. Pharmacies can help prevent a fun picnic from becoming a food catastrophe with sales of coolers, meat thermometers, and ice packs. In addition, towelettes, hand sanitizers, and paper towels can help keep hands and surfaces clean and sanitary.
- Insect bites and stings. While bug bites are certainly a rite of summer, certain insects pose dangerous, potentially life-threatening risks. This includes mosquitos that carry illnesses like West Nile virus, and deer ticks that carry Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Pharmacists can help patients protect themselves by stocking a full range of insect repellants. In addition, products including calamine lotion, after-bite erasers, and camphophenique can make the resulting discomfort a but more manageable.
- Poison oak or ivy rash. Nothing ruins a summer hike or day in the garden like brushing up against a patch of poison ivy or poison oak. While the severity of a reaction depends on the amount of the plant's oil that transfers to an individual's skin, any resulting rash in unwelcome and unpleasant. A pharmacy can help by stocking plenty of over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, and oral antihistamines such as Benadryl. In addition, McKesson notes, a cool-water bath containing an oatmeal-based product like Aveeno can be helpful.
As Americans head to the great outdoors for summer fun, pharmacists will be ready with treatments and bandages! As always, PrimeRx™ will be hard at work, helping pharmacies manage their inventories, maintain patient records, and seamlessly record all transactions.