A Very Strange Hour

I don’t work many Sundays, but this past Sunday I did so a co-worker could have the weekend with her family to celebrate her birthday.

And on the Sundays I do work, strange things seem to happen.  Not sure exactly why, though I do have my guesses:

1) The hangover is gone.

2) People go to church, get convicted of the weekend’s activities, repent, then come looking for solutions to the consequences realized.

3) They think everyone else is at church so business will be slow, or they’ll avoid the judgmental eyes of the church-goers.

So, I had a very strange hour this past Sunday at work.

Customer #1: A man and his son – the dad had skunk-streaked hair (as in dark on the outsides, white/gray down the middle) and the 15 yo son was linebacker sized–the kid had a sinus infection and needed an antibiotic.

Customer #2: Ex-Marine – he ran the 6-mile Currahee Challenge.  (If you’ve ever seen the series Band of Brothers, they were guys who trained at Camp Toccoa during WWII and running Currahee Mountain was all in a day’s work.)  This guy came hobbling to the counter, informed me that he had been out of the Marines for only a month and that running 6 miles should’ve been easy.  He described his pain and told me that “Icy Hot from hips to toes on both legs wasn’t working.”  Ibuprofen and real ice was a better option (and less smelly).

Customer #3:  Nervous guy – he asked about purchasing Plan B.  I have him the 3rd degree: who’s it for, how old are you? how old is she? how long has it been? (it’s fun cuz the guy’s squirming).  Sold him a pack – $53.  He then calls a few minutes later and says “this box says for 17 and younger.  She’s not 17!”  I informed him that the label should say ‘Rx only for 17 and younger”, meaning if someone younger than 17 is going to use it, it requires a prescription from a doctor.  He was highly relieved (obviously if he had gotten the wrong thing, “the lady” was going to be angry!)

Customer #4: Girl from the Chinese Buffet – She is really sweet and I like helping her, but communication is a challenge so you’ve got to be able to laugh at some of the mistakes we make.  Today, she came in asking for advice on “cold medicine for a duck.” A duck?  Really?  I asked about symptoms, she said “his nose is noisy”.  I head for the children’s medicine thinking we can dose a duck by weight, so I ask how much he weighed.  She said 140 pounds.  A duck?  Oooooh, adult!  She never knew I thought duck as in quack quack duck.  We got her dad some cold medicine and she was happily on her way.

Just another random Sunday at the pharmacy!

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My Allegra Challenge

Today is my first day of my own personal Allegra challenge.

If you didn’t hear the news, the allergy medication known as Allegra has become Over-The-Counter (as of March 3rd).

See, I have been taking Claritin (well, the generic form of it) for several years now (since before I went to pharmacy school), and I think I’ve become resistant to it.  And Zyrec (even the generic) is too expensive for me to want to buy it.  So, I’m believing that Allegra is going to be my rescuer from springtime allergies (that have so suddenly come upon us – even in the early days of March).

I was fortunate enough to find a $4.00 off coupon at this website: Allegra $4.00 off

So, I took my coupon to Walgreens, picked up the March monthly coupon book (it has a $3.00 off store coupon).  AND… Allegra sent leaflets with $2.00 and $3.00 off manufacturer coupons to display in-store (they didn’t have them out when I went shopping, so not sure if they can all be combined).  Well, and since I work for Walgreens, I get my employee discount (15% off).

You do the math: $19.99 retail price for 30 tabs – [(19.99 x 15%) + ($4.00 + $3.00)] = ????

Yep, I paid less than $10 for my Allegra.  If you use the coupons, your final price will be around $13.

Now, that I have my 30 tablets of Allegra (well, 29 plus the 1 I swallowed this AM), we’ll see how these 30 days  progress.

Faith and Your Health

I’m sure we are all aware of the predictions for this winter’s cold & flu season.  And we all know someone (or may be that someone) who helps friends, family, and co-workers realize the “true seriousness” of the situation and what they should do to prepare themselves.  And if you are not running to the store to buy the latest supplements Dr. Oz is recommending to keep you and your family healthy this winter, you are at least pleading with the “forces that be” that you and your family get lucky enough to stay healthy this winter.

Instead of panicking, let’s try some faith. Yes, confessing that your family is healthy and remains healthy this winter is a great thing. Now, I want to share some practical steps with you to put that faith into action and to have that confession come to pass.  Let’s try a little exercise I like to call “What’s the next step”…

If you want to keep you and your family well this winter, what’s the first step you should take?  Take vitamins, get plenty of rest, or stay away from sick people.  Taking vitamins and getting enough rest are great ways to support your immune system – and usually require you to put yourself under a little bit of law until the action becomes a habit.  But what about staying away from sick people? Is that really practical?  Almost all of us come in contact with the public at all times – it’s our job and our kids go to school.

So, if avoiding sick people isn’t an option, then what’s another option?  Don’t get too close to people and keep yourself clean – great answers!  Not getting too close to people requires us to be aware of personal space (which is much harder for some than others).  If I can feel your breath on me, you are too close!  Now, to keep yourself clean, what do I mean by that?  Yes, please bathe and teach your children to bathe – but it’s more specific than that.  If you are unavoidably around sick people, what is the next step in keeping yourself clean?  Wash your hands, don’t touch the things sick people touched without cleaning it first, covering your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze.

Let’s start with the last one first – covering your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze.  Do you know how to do this appropriately?  Most people might say they cough or sneeze into their hands, but what does that do?  Now your hands are germy.  If that is you, it’s best to retrain yourself (and your children) to cough or sneeze into the bend of their elbow (think of Batman covering his face with a cape).  This keeps your hands free of germs (and body fluids) so that you can continue what you were doing.  In a public setting, you’d be surprised and how closely customers pay attention to what you do with your hands.  Your next step for this – practice, make it a game with the family to keep each other accountable for using the right technique!

Next, not touching things right after someone who is sick touched it.  Chlorox is your friend, isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol is your friend, soapy water is your friend.  Please do not hesitate to clean the counter, the credit card machine, the phone, the door handle, the chair, the pens, or any other “public use” equipment that is used in your place of employment.  Also, please do not insult the wipes at the grocery store to wipe off the buggy handles – do you know who’s sick kid just had their mouth on that handle minutes before you touched it?  Didn’t think so, use a wipe!  So what’s your next step? Probably for most of us it’s acquiring some type of disinfecting wipe or spray and paper towels for the areas that you think are questionable – add it to the shopping list!

Lastly, washing your hands, simple right? Are you sure? Here is the “best practices” I was taught when learning to wash my hands.

1 ) Turn on the warm water

2 ) wet hands

3 ) use soap

4 ) scrub all surfaces of hands and fingers (wrists, palms, back of  hands, the webs of fingers, all sides of  fingers, around cuticles, and under finger nails – friction is your friend) while singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” twice at the appropriate speed (some people use “Happy Birthday”) to equal 20 – 30 seconds

5 ) rinse under warm water starting at your fingertips and letting the soap and water run off the back of your hands or the bottom of your wrists (this keeps the suds that collected all the dirt and germs from running to the part of the hand that you use the most, thus want to be the cleanest – your fingers)

6 ) retrieve paper towels (if the paper towel dispenser requires you to push or wind a handle to retrieve it, it would be best to roll out the amount you would need before you wet your hands in #2)

7 ) turn off water using paper towel as a barrier (may also use it to push or wind the handle on the paper towel dispenser again)

8 ) dry hands

9 ) use your drying paper towel to open the door 10) throw paper towel away in the trash can.

Hand sanitizing gel is great when sinks and soap are not available.  Just remember, the alcohol in them doesn’t kill every germ (and I don’t recommend the use of bleech on your skin) so soap and water still have their place.  So, what’s the next step?  Practice – maybe find or make a kid-friendly poster with all the steps in your bathrooms, kitchen, and classroom (for all our educators out there), and put hand sanitizer gel (both pump and personal sizes) on the shopping list.

Please don’t take this as me telling you to become a germaphobe (or turn your kids into one – getting dirty has its place), but I am saying be conscious of your surroundings.  Staying healthy isn’t about staying germ-free all the time, it’s about killing the germs before they can infect you and your family.  Here’s a few bonus tips – for those of us working in the public arena, do a good washing right before you go home.  It leaves the “work germs” at work so you don’t bring them home to your family. Also, get rid of the bad habit of putting things in your mouth (fingers, pens, tools, etc).  Here’s my personal testimony – when I was working at different pharmacies during school, I had a bad habit of biting my fingernails.  Not too long after I started these rotations, I was getting a stomach virus about every 25 days or so.  And this went on for about 8 months until Mrs. Marie suggested that because I was working in health care, the germs I was encountering were living under my fingernails. So when I was putting my fingers in my mouth, I was infecting and reinfecting myself with those germs.  After accepting that bit of wisdom, I started using hand sanitizer many times during the day – partly to kill the germs on my hands and mostly as a deterrent for putting my hands in my mouth (because isopropyl alcohol is officially yucky).  And I stayed well!  I haven’t had a stomach virus in 15 months!!  Rather than trying to use my faith once a month to stop puking, I put my faith to work to stay healthy.

So, let’s be faithful (full of faith) and keep ourselves and our families healthy this winter!

(Next time: a story of what NOT to do!)

Flu Shots and Florida Gators

Since I am certified to give immunizations, I get to encounter some interesting people.  This past Saturday I gave 33 flu shots – to a bunch of football fans.

One particular lady had on an old-school Florida sweat shirt and was harassing the other pharmacist that was working with me.  He kept telling her that she was going to have to cut off her sleeve so I could get to her arm to give her the flu shot.  When we went into the clinic room, she offered to take her arm out of the sweatshirt so I could reach her shoulder.  I harmlessly asked her if she went to Florida or had kids at Florida.  While I was preparing my supplies and cleansing her arm with an alcohol, she proceeded to tell me that she graduated from Florida with a degree in English and that she had that sweatshirt since she was in college. I gave her the shot and she just oohed and ahhed over the fact that she didn’t feel a thing and it was the best shot she’d ever had. Then…

… she asked “are you a Georgia fan?” I calmly said “yes” and placed a band-aid over her injection site.  In a split-second, she started cussing and ranting saying “I wish I had known that! I woulda screamed and cried so they’d think that Georgia girl hurt me and made me bleed and wouldn’t even give me a bandage!”

As she was leaving, she wrote “Go Gators” on her sticker to stick on our shot count board!

She makes my top 10 favorite flu shots this season!

Feelin’ like a hero!

I’ve had a great first week working as a fully licensed pharmacist all by myself.

During this week, I’ve translated Medicare and other insurance jibberish into English for patients to understand, helped parents with sick children comfort them and get them well, given flu shots to a great variety of citizens in this area, helped a lady with a bee sting, and saved a baby!

Yeah, you heard me right.  Had a young lady bring in some prescriptions and when she got to the counter, she was visibly emotional and didn’t say much.  She left and our technician continued entering in the prescriptions.  As we started filling, I noticed Percocet (nothing strange – it’s for pain), then Valium (still normal – it’s for nerves), then Cytotec (What?! direction say “take all 4 tablets 4 hours before procedure”. Ladies and gentlemen, that is not a GI ulcer prevention dose!) The technician informed me that she wasn’t in the store any longer so as I was verifying and doing Drug Use Reviews, I flagged it since it is Pregnancy Category X (means it will hurt and/or kill unborn babies).

After that, we turned into a zoo – people wanting flu shots, people at the drive-thru, 17 new prescriptions and 35 minutes later, we finally got to the labels to fill the medications for this young lady.  Pain med counted – check, nerve med counted – check, then as I pulled the third medication off the shelf and set it on the counter, I just looked at it – with it’s bright red cap warning women of childbearing age to handle with care and the picture of the pregnant stick-person with the international sign for “no” on it.  I stood there for what seemed a really long time, and the thing that brought me out of my trance was the man that was with her when she brought the prescriptions.  He said, “she’s in the car and she wanted me to come tell you she doesn’t want them now, but you can just keep the prescriptions too.”

I can’t imagine what kind of arguments get thrown around at a doctor’s office (by doctors and male partners) that then allow a woman to leave with prescriptions for these meds and thinking she’s made the right decision.  And I certainly can’t imagine the agony of confronting one’s self during those 35 minutes of waiting for those prescriptions to be filled.

All I know is, pregnant ladies are some of my favorite patients to deal with, and I let them know that I’d love for them to bring the baby in for us to see (or at least pictures) – cuz we’ve played a vital role in their pregnancy (prenatal vitamin, meds for morning sickness, finding “baby safe” meds for the sniffles or seasonal allergies or mosquito bites).  And I hope that the young lady in this story becomes one of those patients too.