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Allergic disease is increasing, with the UK having one of the highest rates of allergy in the western world. It is estimated that 21 million people in the country have at least one allergy.1 Community pharmacists have an important role to play in the advice and information they can provide.
For many patients, the pharmacy may be the first point of contact for several reasons, including the convenience of expert knowledge without the need to make an appointment or take time off work or school. Patients are looking for advice and the appropriate treatments that are flexible and fit in with their busy lifestyles.
Pharmacists are well placed to help address the needs of allergic patients on a case-by-case basis, depending on the individual and the type of allergic condition they have. This includes:
An overview of allergies
Allergy is an umbrella term for a group of allergic conditions, including:
It is common for allergic conditions to co-exist and research has shown that there are close links between food allergies, asthma, hay fever and eczema.2 A genetic tendency to develop allergies is termed ‘atopy’. Children with an immediate family history of allergies are at an increased likelihood of developing one, but not necessarily the same type as their family member.
The progression of allergic disease from birth to late childhood has been historically described as the ‘allergic march’, meaning the natural order by which allergic disease develops over time. The first signs of an allergic disease seen in infants are usually a food allergy and eczema, with asthma and hay fever having a later onset.
Where a food allergy and asthma co-exist, there is an increased risk of a severe allergic reaction – especially when the food allergy is caused by peanuts. Dispensing asthma and allergy medications provides a chance to review medication compliance and ensure patients know how to use their devices, such as inhalers and adrenaline autoinjectors.
Author: Holly Shaw