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How to Make the Most of Your Pharmacist

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

Your pharmacist is the medical expert you never knew you needed

You know your pharmacist, don't you? Your prescription is sent to the drugstore, and your pharmacist (often wearing a white coat) fills it. Your interaction with this health professional may be brief, and if you have no questions or issues, you may never even talk to them. However, you may be losing out on some excellent medical advice if you don't look at your pharmacist as the medical professional they really are. Here are a few ways pharmacists are valuable beyond a simple prescription fill.

A pharmacist's role

We spoke with CVS pharmacy supervisor, Dr. Jeremy Blais to get a little input on the role a pharmacist plays within your health care team. That role is surprisingly pretty extensive if you know what to ask and how to make use of their expertise and time. Better yet, you're not going to be charged for an office visit or with a co-pay, which makes visiting with your pharmacist even more alluring.

More: The Biggest Health Trends of 2018 According to Top Doctors

For starters, unlike many medical professionals, you usually don't need an appointment to consult with a pharmacist. Even those who work in the busiest drugstores are almost always available to speak with you about a wide variety of topics. Simply request to speak with a pharmacist, and when they have time, they'll be happy to visit with you.

Medication counseling

Since pharmacists are experts in medications, it makes sense they'll be your best bet if you have a question about a medication's side effects — whether it's prescription or over-the-counter. "Pharmacists can give patients tips and strategies to help minimize side effects based on what medications you take and when you take them," explains Blais. "Oftentimes, there are ways to either eliminate or manage side effects so you can continue on your treatment."

Also, they can help you maintain compliance with your medical plans. "As much as 20 percent of hospital and nursing home admissions each year are due to medication nonadherence, and research has shown that face-to-face counseling with a pharmacist is an effective way to improve adherence," says Blais. He notes that your pharmacist can help you establish and maintain a prescription schedule as well as suggest apps or other devices that can keep your mind on your meds so you don't miss a dose.

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Help if you're sick

Although they can't diagnoses illnesses, a pharmacist should be your go-to if you're headed to the drugstore to ponder what OTC meds you should take for your minor illness or infection. This is super-handy because, as you know, there are dozens of products that claim to treat your exact problem, and it can be very hard to pick the one that will best aid your individual symptoms — especially if you're exhausted because you're sick.

General health tips

In addition to counseling on medications, pharmacists can also offer tips that can lead to fewer doctor's office visits — yes, really. This can include when to get a flu shot (and many pharmacies offer the service in-house, which is a win-win), nutrition information, diabetes management, allergy management and much more.

While you can't step up to a pharmacy counter and get a strep test (or actually get diagnosed with any medical condition at all), your pharmacist is a wealth of knowledge you'd be silly to ignore. A pharmacist is much more than someone who fills prescriptions — they can help you sort through drug side effects and potential interactions, get you on board with a medication schedule, help you select the best products for your sore throat and hook you up with a flu shot.

More: When Is the Best Time to Get Your Flu Shot?

So next time you have a medical question about your meds or your illness, instead of making an appointment with your regular doctor, visit your pharmacy instead. You may be pleasantly surprised to get some quality medical advice without paying a penny.

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