Unfortunately, most people labor under the mistaken notion that what pharmacists primarily do is just put pills into bottles. Consequently, they sometimes get irritated when it either takes longer than they expect for us to put those pills in those bottles or we simply refuse to do so.

Actually, our jobs are a lot more complex than that. Our number one responsibility is to protect you. We do that by making sure you are taking the right medication in the right dose at the right times and that it does not conflict with other medication you might be taking.

Sometimes, prescriptions come to us in which the dosage appears out of synch, or the frequency at which the patient is supposed to take their medication is out of tune with normal. That means we have to call the doctor’s office to get clarification. It would be dangerous, irresponsible and unconscionable for a pharmacist to knowingly give a person medication that might cause harm or accidentally produce a bad outcome without due diligence.

Another issue is medicines that interact with each other negatively, or what we call contraindication. Some drugs, if taken together, could actually harm a patient. In that case, we definitely need to talk with the doctor. So, be patient with us. For pharmacists, your safety is foremost. Consequently, sometimes that means it may take more than 15 minutes to get your prescription filled. So, as we go about the business of protecting your safety, be patient with us.

Q: My son has ringworm. What should I get him?

A. There are a number of over the counter antifungal medications available to treat ringworm. I recommend Lamisil AT or Lotrimin Ultra. You should see results within one to two weeks. In cases where it doesn’t disappear within that period, see your doctor. The doctor will probably prescribe Griseofulvin, which is an oral medication that can be found in liquid or tablet form. Ringworm is contagious and can be passed easily from person to person. So, watch out for possible re-infection.

Q. I am 77 years old, and I’m taking a lot of medication. Sometimes it is confusing, because I get some pills at one pharmacy and others at another. I’m afraid I may end up taking the wrong dose or I might have a bad reaction from the pills.

A. You are wise to be concerned about this, because drug interactions can be harmful, even life threatening. Keeping up with your drug regimen can be difficult. I have three suggestions. Have all of your medications come from one pharmacy, so your pharmacist can make sure there are no negative interactions among your drugs. The pharmacist can then also check to be sure that you’re not taking too many drugs, such as more than one drug that does the same thing. You may also want to separate them in daily doses in pill boxes. Just be sure to keep the original containers that the drugs came in and keep one pill in each container so you can always identify which medication you are taking.

Q. I know that I need to use sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, but if I use sunscreen, can I still get a good tan?

A. Yes, you will definitely get a tan, even a great tan. And at the same time you will greatly reduce the risk of damaging your skin. Sunscreens come in a number of SPFs (Sun Protection Factor). I recommend an SPF of at least 30. At SPF 30, you are blocking 97 percent of the sun’s harmful UVB rays. And because you are blocking so much of the harmful sun, many experts question whether using a sunscreen with an SPF above 30 provides much more protection. Also, remember to reapply it frequently, particularly after you come out of the water. No sunscreen is truly waterproof. Instead, they can be water resistant and need to be reapplied every few hours or according to the manufacturer’s instructions. And no sunscreen really provides all-day protection.

Q. I can’t find Tylenol anywhere. I’ve looked and looked and looked. What happened?

A. Recently Tylenol tablets and liquid were recalled because of questions about the sanitation of the equipment used to make them. Motrin and Benadryl liquid for children were pulled for the same reasons. The good news is the generic form of Tylenol, Acetomenophen, is available. It is just as effective and in this case, safer than the brands.

Dr. Daphne Bernard, Pharm.D., is a registered pharmacist in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. She is currently assistant dean at the Howard University School of Pharmacy and a member of numerous boards and associations, including the Association of Boards of Pharmacy, the District of Columbia Board of Pharmacy, the Nonprescription Medicines Academy, Rho Chi Honor Society, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, American Pharmaceutical Association and the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. Please email her at