pharmacist life

Ask A Pharmacist – Laura Armstrong

Life Pharmacy’s Laura Armstrong answers some of the most commonly asked questions about what you can do to keep the family healthy as the kids return to school – featured in the Irish Independent’s ‘Mother & babies’ supplement 5 September 2018.

How can I encourage healthy sleeping habits?

It’s hard to believe the glorious summer of 2018 is now coming to an end and children are already back in school. Now is a good time to establish an early bedtime routine. Getting enough good quality sleep at night can support healthy brain function and maintain a strong immune system. Simple steps to encourage this includes a) giving your children a relaxing bedtime bath, b) reading a bedtime story together and c) turning off all electronic devices and TVs at least an hour before bedtime. thisworks Deep Sleep Pillow Spray is a lovely product to promote rest and relaxation and is suitable for ages 3 years and over.

How can I best boost my children’s nutritional intake? 

In the morning our bodies need to refuel for the day ahead. A healthy nutritious breakfast is an excellent start to the day. Foods are the best source of nutrients, however, we all know how hard it can be to pack in all the daily recommended portions of fruit and veg in our children’s diets. A good multi-vitamin will help you achieve this but do ensure it is age-suitable and is given in the correct dosage. The Nature’s Aid range covers all age groups from 3 months up. The newly launched Revive Active Junior (5 -12 years) and Revive Active Teens (13 – 19 years) are specially designed to support healthy heart and brain function, strong bone development and a strong immune system. They contain no added sugar, can be added to a drink or food and are suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

It can be difficult to incorporate 2-3 portions of oily fish a week into our diets and children do not always like the taste. Look for a product such as Nature’s Aid Kidz Omega-3 with Vitamin D3 (6–12 yrs). It contains high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. DHA contributes to the maintenance of a healthy heart, brain and vision. EPA contributes to the maintenance of a healthy heart. This product is sugar free and contains no artificial flavours, preservatives or colours. Nature’s Aid products are currently available on a 3 for 2 offer in Life Pharmacies.

I also recommend probiotics to boost the immune system, for example Quest Kidz Biotix chewable tablets for children from 3 years of age or Nature’s Aid Kidz Pro5 from 12 months. These products are easy to use and will support digestive health.  Gut bacteria may become imbalanced due to illness or even medications such as antibiotics. Probiotics can encourage growth of healthy gut flora and increase the ability to absorb nutrients from your diet.

What should I have in the medicine cabinet in case of colds?

School going children are often exposed to the common cold, experiencing coughs, blocked noses and often an increased temperature. In children any temperature of 38◦C or above is considered high. It is worthwhile investing in a good quality ear thermometer. Pharmacists are ideally placed to discuss the symptoms and treatments of the common cold. They can treat your child with over the counter medicines or refer you to the GP if necessary.

Is there any way to prevent head lice? 

Often a return to the school class room can bring another unwanted guest, Headlice! These tiny wingless insects are most common in children between 4-11yrs of age, however they are becoming more common in older age groups thanks to the ‘selfie’ culture. There is no fool proof way of preventing headlice but the earlier they are detected the easier it is to get rid of them. My advice to parents is to check their children’s hair regularly, ideally once a week, with a good quality head lice comb. The female louse lays pin sized eggs close to the scalp where they are kept warm. 7-10 days later the baby lice hatch and their empty shells (nits) remain glued to the hair strand. This is what is usually visible when checking the hair.

Nits grow out with the hair at a rate of 1cm per month so the closer the nit is to the scalp the more recent the infection. Practical advice includes tying up long hair as head lice are only spread by head to head contact. Leeloop is a unique hairband infused with an herbal formula to help protect the hair from lice infestation. Symptoms of head lice can include itchy scalp and a rash at the back of the neck caused by a reaction to louse droppings. Wet combing is the most accurate method of finding and removing head lice as they remain motionless when wet. A good tip is to apply conditioner to the hair to aid combing. This must be done on day 5, 9 and 13 to make sure the young lice are cleared before they lay eggs.

Products such as Lyclear or Full Marks solution are an alternative method for treating head lice. However, these are not always 100% effective and must only be used if a living, moving head louse is found. Ensure you use sufficient product to coat the scalp and along the full length of hair and leave the product to work according to the directions. It is important to repeat the process after 7 days to ensure all the hatched lice have been treated too. If a child is infested it is necessary to check everyone in the family and treat if appropriate.


Laura Armstrong has been a pharmacist in Arklow, Co Wicklow for 26 years and opened her new Life Pharmacy last year. Laura’s spacious pharmacy boasts a large Health & Wellness Section and a bright, welcoming private consultation room providing blood pressure monitoring, flu vaccination, emergency contraception and many other services.

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