How Pharmacist Coaches Support Members During Cold & Flu Season
by Virgin Pulse on August 3, 2021
VP Live’s pharmacist coaches can support your employees using evidence-based and inclusive approaches to promote health, healing, and wellbeing. With cold and flu season approaching, and our world continuing to navigate through a pandemic, we want to do all we can to stay healthy. While illnesses caused by viruses like the flu or the common cold can temporarily weaken our immune system, there are several things we can do to support it.
At Virgin Pulse, we understand preventing and managing sickness can be a complex topic. For many, both acute and chronic illnesses impact our ability to implement lifestyle changes and adhere to medical advice. Evidence supports that ongoing communication, collaboration, education, and support are needed to achieve results from medications to improve our health. Our pharmacist health coaches help bridge this gap. They listen intently to support and partner with members to empower them to participate in shared decision-making with their providers and be confident, effective advocates for their health. This translates to improved health outcomes, enhanced quality of life, notable member satisfaction, and stronger relationships with health care providers.
Our approach leans into evidence-based prevention methods to help our members live and be well even outside of the typical cold and flu season. In an effort to partner with members to stay healthy and avoid illness, we're inquisitive and curious. We take the time to learn how they currently stay healthy and optimize their immunity to further brainstorm ideas and provide reputable resources.
Our coaches explore and assess the following areas to support members in the prevention and spread of colds and influenza viruses:
- General hygiene measures
- Sleep adequacy
- Daily activity levels
- Perceived stress level and ability to cope
- Health literacy around prevention measures
- Nutrition Health literacy around preventive measures and treatments
Additionally, coaches are in a unique position to help identify and prevent problems with cough and cold products in personal situations such as educating how Over-The-Counter (OTC) medication can impact blood pressure, or supporting a breastfeeding member who is concerned about the safety of OTC cough and cold medicine and needs to navigate which medications are deemed safer than others. At the forefront of these coaching scenarios, coaches are encouraging members to also discuss safer options with their provider, highlighting the importance of discussing all OTC medications/vitamins/supplements to proactively prevent medication therapy problems such as allergic reactions, drug-drug interaction, drug-disease interactions, etc.
Take a sneak peek at our Pharmacist Coaches recommendations with these 8 pro tips on OTC and at-home remedies:
- Pro-tip for Cough & Cold & Flu medications: Consider purchasing these medications separately versus combined in a multi-formula product. This gives greater control over the number of medications taken, how long that medication may last in the body, and supports using only what is needed for any given symptom or set of symptoms.
- Pro-tip For Acetaminophen & NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatories): Because these medications may thin the blood, individuals with chronic conditions should discuss the use of these products with their provider before taking, as acetaminophen and NSAIDs should not be combined with blood thinners or blood pressure medications. Also, those who drink alcohol or have liver issues should consider using acetaminophen and NSAIDs less. It is best to use acetaminophen only if needed as it may mask or suppress a fever response and hide any underlying infection. NSAIDs are best tolerated when taken with food or a full glass of water to minimize any stomach or kidney issues.
- Pro-tip for Decongestants (stuffy nose): Consider a short-acting decongestant, like the 4-hour versus the 12- or 24-hour type, which offers more control over the medication relative to sleep habits and personal tolerance. If the sensation produced is unpleasant, the effect will go away faster.
- Pro-tip for Congestion: Using a Neti-pot or nasal saline rinse can be helpful to remove any congestions and mucus; it may take a little practice, but the results for some are very beneficial.
- Pro-tip for Antihistamines: Those with severe and persistent allergies may consider asking their provider about acid reducers like famotidine or cimetidine to help as these are Histamine-blockers. Another consideration may include exploring natural antihistamines too. https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/best-natural-antihistamines
- Pro-tip for Antitussives & Expectorants (cough and congestion): Guaifenesin is a suitable alternative to decongestants that don’t affect sleep and is generally safe for people with high blood pressure. Pharmacists generally recommend only using cough suppressants when needed. Sometimes it is best to be able to cough mucous out; however, a cough that causes pain or interferes with sleep may warrant use. Drinking pineapple juice may also help quell a cough due to the fruit's bromalin effect, which is a natural antihistamine/cough suppressant.
- Pro tip Homeopathic Remedies: Many medications available over the counter are homeopathic in nature, meaning they consist of tiny amounts of natural substances such as plants and minerals that stimulate the healing process. More recognizable brands include as Cold-Eeze, Zicam, or Oscillococcinum. Those considering homeopathic remedies should always consult with their provider before use and rule out allergies.
- Pro-tip for Self-Care: Making soup or stew in bulk with enough to save and freeze for later is a great practice. Like this ginger shot recipe, recipes containing fresh ginger make use of the ingredient’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger may also help to relieve nausea and other digestive issues. *Note: Please make certain you are not allergic to any ingredient or that the ingredients do not interact with any medication.
With coronavirus variants still looming in some parts of the world, the ability to distinguish between COVID-19 and the common cold and flu continues to be a relevant challenge. Here is a helpful resource from the CDC to help differentiate the common cold, flu, and COVID-19.
Disclaimer: Information presented in this article is not intended to take the place of medical advice.
Learn more about VP Live
VP Live Coaching features a whole-person approach that blends lifestyle optimization with specialization in an industry-leading 22 conditions, providing total population health management that helps the healthy stay healthy, improves clinical outcomes, and reduces costs associated with chronic conditions. Members access coaching resources directly through their app and once paired with a coach, they identify their goals for a thriving life and work together to progress toward their vision and achieve their targeted outcomes. To learn more about VP Live, reach out to your Client Success team.
Also part of the VP Live product suite, Next-Steps Consult helps members get the most out of their wellbeing program. It is a concierge-style conversation between member and Health Guide, focused on determining a member’s first or next step in their wellbeing journey and personalized guidance of all that Virgin Pulse and employer benefits have to offer. Our Health Guides uncover the best route for a member based on their health status, motivators, and obstacles, with deep knowledge of client programs and resources.
About the Authors:
Laura Burr RPh, MBA, CCH, NBC-HWC
Laura is a Registered Pharmacist with an MBA from Drake University, a Certified Homeopath, and a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach with a drive and motivation to help people to utilize medications safely and appropriately to get the best outcomes with their personal unique health needs. With an understanding of both sides of the health care spectrum, holistic and allopathic, she strives to take an integrative approach to guide people to resources and answer questions regarding medications, supplements, health conditions using a whole person coaching perspective to elicit what may be good options a person may need.
Morgan Dillon PharmD, RPh, NBC-HWC
Morgan is a Registered Pharmacist, and National Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach. She has an undergraduate biology degree and a doctorate from the University of Colorado in Pharmacy and has previously worked in clinical and community health settings providing medication therapy management, anti-coagulation care, and community health education. Morgan is passionate about weaving evidence-based medicine supporting individual autonomy. She currently resides in Minnesota, with her husband and 2 children and they are excited to welcome their 3rd child this fall.
With editorial contributions by:
Brandi Salters, Cynthia Shockley, Kyle Long, Stephanie Ptak, and Tamara Torres
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