With 20-40% of the world’s population suffering from allergic rhinitis, one in three patients’ pharmacists see will have allergic rhinitis. A reported 70% of these patients self-managed with OTC medication.
WHAT/WHO IS AN ALLERGY PATIENT?
An allergy is an immune reaction to something in the environment that the body should recognise as foreign and good, but it recognises as foreign and bad, Dr McDonald explained. “The average allergy patient will present with red eyes, streaming eyes, and red congested nose. If you were to look up their nostrils, they've got these pale turbinates. They’ve got large tonsils, they've also got the allergic shiners, and if you're lucky they've got an allergic crease, but you don't need every single one of these signs to be diagnosed as allergic.”
Dr McDonald said that when you have a patient come in for the third time in six weeks to treat a cold you should have a warning light going off. “This is a unique opportunity to educate your patient, to advise on the correct medical treatment and to decide to refer,” Dr McDonald said.
SYMPTOMS THAT NEED REFERRAL
- One sided symptoms
- Congestion with no other symptoms
- Mucopurulent runny nose
- One sided runny nose, worse when bending forward
- Recurrent bloody nose
- Eye cellulitis
- Severe fever
OPPORTUNITY FOR EDUCATION
“While the burden of education of these patients falls onto groups like the Allergy Society, the Allergy Foundation of South Africa, and the Rhinitis Working Group, the in-person contact with their pharmacist and pharmacist assistant really makes a big difference in ensuring patients receive appropriate therapy.”
Dr McDonald said it’s important to understand that while pharmacists and healthcare providers have the innate knowledge that most allergies are persistent or seasonal, it’s a mistake to assume patients are aware of this. “Patients go to their pharmacist or doctor believing he or she will solve their problem. They think that if they take the medicine prescribed, they’ll be healed. We forget to tell patients that it is a symptomatic treatment and if allergy and exposure is persistent the treatment must be persistent.”