Get ready for

Allergy Season


Allergies are usually caused by external usually harmless stimulants e.g., pollen, animals, insects, foods, and sometimes medication, which send the immune system into overdrive. The immune system overreacts and produces a chemical called histamine to fight the stimulant.

Histamines act like bouncers outside a night club. Their job is to get rid of the allergy trigger – that have usually entered the body through the mouth, nose, skin, or eyes – as swiftly as possible. And they’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done, making you itch, cry, swell up, cough and sneeze. Gesundheit!

There is no cure to allergies so to help you identify, avoid, and manage your allergies, pharmacists are well-placed in both your local community and in most GP practices to help. A great fountain of knowledge, very approachable, professional, discreet, and always ready for a chat!

Allergies can affect more than a quarter of people in the UK and can vary in severity from mildly annoying to life-flashing-before-your-eyes serious. If you or someone you know has an anaphylactic reaction, you must get help right away and call 999, don’t wait. In some cases, the sick person will need a shot of adrenaline called epinephrine (epi-pen), as soon as possible.

How can your local pharmacist help?

Summer months bring so much joy and so much pain. Millions of people in the UK cannot enjoy summer as they wish because of an allergy to pollen. Local pharmacists can really help to manage any symptoms that are stopping you from enjoying those summer months! They can recommend: 

  • Eyedrops for the itchy eyes
  • Tablets to arrest that sneezing fit and stop the scratchy throat
  • Nasal sprays to clear the sinuses, blocked noses, and stuffy head all before you need to reach for something stronger on prescription.
  • Sometimes they might direct you to the Vaseline to use around nostrils to trap pollen before it enters the nose irritating you and so limiting the severity of symptoms being experienced.
  • They may also stock local honey for you to spread on your toast, add to your tea, increasing your tolerance to pollen and again reducing the symptoms being experienced.

Allergies which have the potential to be life-threatening can include food allergies and allergies to medication. It is vital that this type of allergy is identified early and foods/medication that trigger a reaction can be avoided and clearly documented in patient records. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and some people will have a life-threatening allergy for which they will need to carry an epi-pen. Pharmacists are also well placed to provide lifestyle advice that will help to avoid foods that will cause an allergy and ensure that you avoid medications to which you are allergic.

Finally, we also see many patients with allergies to medications, which can be challenging to manage. Some allergies can cause severe reactions, and it's crucial to identify the offending medication and avoid it in the future. As pharmacists, we can help patients identify alternative medications, and we can advise on the appropriate treatment in case of an allergic reaction.

Written by Mahira Hanid-Awan, Head of Clinical Pharmacy Services and Patient Outcomes.


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