What is a pharmacist?

A pharmacist is a university-trained health professional. Pharmacists have two main jobs:

  • making and giving out medications 
  • giving you information about your medications, symptoms or medical conditions.

Pharmacists work in retail pharmacies in your community, in hospital pharmacies and sometimes with GPs in local practices.

Why your child might see a pharmacist

Pharmacists are primary health care professionals – this means that a pharmacist is often the first person you can go to for advice about your family’s health.

Pharmacists can let you know what to do about your symptoms. Sometimes they can suggest medication or other treatment, and sometimes they’ll send you to see other health professionals – for example, your GP, child and family health nurse, dentist or optometrist.

You and your child will see a pharmacist if your child has been given a prescription for medicine by your GP or other health professional – for example, a specialist, an optometrist, a podiatrist, a dentist or a nurse practitioner. The pharmacist checks all prescriptions closely to make sure they’re safe and appropriate for your child to take.

Pharmacists can give you and your child information about non-prescription medicines and treatments like paracetamol, antihistamines and vitamin supplements. They can also usually suggest treatments for common health problems like coughs, colds, cuts, lice, worms and so on.

Pharmacists can give you and your child tips on living a healthy lifestyle and managing health conditions like type-1 diabetes, type-2 diabetes or asthma.

You don’t need a GP referral to see a pharmacist.

When you see a pharmacist

Many people visit a pharmacist before they see a doctor. If you do this, you might have some questions. It’s a good idea to ask your pharmacist about the following things:

  • Cost: the pharmacist will be able to tell you how much the prescribed medications cost.
  • What to expect: every medication can cause side effects or even allergic reactions. Your pharmacist will tell you what to expect, and how to take or give the medication so that you can deal with any side effects.
  • How long to treat: your pharmacist can tell you how long your child needs to take medications or use other treatments.
  • Drug interactions: if you take some medications together, it can cause interactions. Your pharmacist needs to know what other medications your child is taking, and will tell you about the risks of interactions between them.