3 Holiday Health Tips
The holiday season is a great time for pharmacists to educate patients on ways to stay healthy.
From flu prevention to travel health, here are 3 tips for offering great advice to patients.
- Remind patients to get an annual influenza vaccine
Flu activity is currently low in the United States according to the CDC’s recent influenza surveillance report, which makes it a great time to get vaccinated before flu season spikes.1 Keep educating patients to get their influenza vaccine and not to wait. Remind patients that it takes about 2 weeks after being vaccinated for it to be effective. Flu activity typically peaks right around holiday season between December and March and can even last until May.
- Educate patients on proper hand hygiene
Handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent infections. This is especially important during the holiday season where individuals are traveling and in contact with many family and friends. Emphasize the importance of scrubbing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. The FDA currently recommends using plain soap instead of antibacterial soap.
There isn’t enough scientific evidence to show that OTC antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illnesses than plain soap and water. Additionally, there are health concerns, especially with one of the chemicals known as triclosan found in many antibacterial soaps. Studies have shown that triclosan may even cause antibiotic resistance. 2
If soap and water are not available, then an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can be used. It’s important to keep hand sanitizers out of reach of children because they can cause alcohol poisoning.
Educate patients to wash their hands when performing the following tasks:
- Food preparation
- Before eating
- Before and after caring for someone sick
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the bathroom
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child using the bathroom
- After nose blowing, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After touching garbage
- Discuss DVT (deep vein thrombosis) prevention for air travel
The holidays can be an exciting time to travel, and pharmacists can play an important role in educating patients about DVT prevention strategies. More than 300 million individuals take long-distance (more than 4 hours) flights each year.3 Educate patients, especially those at risk of developing a DVT, on prevention strategies during travel. Individuals should move their legs frequently and exercise the calf muscles on flights to improve blood flow.
Educate patients to be aware of the following DVT symptoms:
- Swelling of the leg or arm
- Pain or tenderness
- Skin that is warm to the touch
- Skin redness
Patients should seek emergency medical attention right away if they experience any DVT symptoms.
Most individuals who develop travel-related blood clots have one or more of the following risk factors3:
- Over 40 years of age
- Recent surgery or injury (within 3 months)
- Use of estrogen-containing contraceptives
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Pregnancy and postpartum period (up to 6 weeks after childbirth)
- Previous DVT or family history
- Inherited hypercoagulable conditions
- Active cancer or recent cancer therapy
- Limited mobility
- Catheter placed in a large vein
- Varicose veins
Pharmacists can play an important role in helping patients stay healthy during the holiday season through education and risk factor assessment.
- Weekly U.S. influenza surveillance report. CDC website. cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm. Accessed October 29, 2016.
- Antibacterial soap? You can skip it—use plain soap and water. FDA website. www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm378393.htm. Accessed October 30, 2016.
- Blood clots and travel: what you need to know. CDC website. cdc.gov/ncbddd/dvt/travel.html. Accessed October 30, 2016.