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2021 is a particularly tough allergy season

woman sneezing

Seasonal allergies are coming on strong this year. Higher than normal pollen levels have led to an allergy season full of sneezing and itchy eyes. The season started earlier and shows every sign of lasting longer.

According to Daniel Coates, the director of the Ottawa-based Aerobiology Research Laboratories, in an example cited by the CBC, Montreal saw pollen levels of roughly 29,000 grains per cubic metre during parts of May, compared to about 16,000 grains per cubic metre over the last five years or so. A lack of significant precipitation has also meant that pollens are hanging in the air longer.

A big allergy season presents opportunities for pharmacists in over-the-counter sales of allergy products. As well, seasonal allergies affect all age groups, from young children to seniors, so there is increased scope to sell a bigger product line.

Sales of allergy medications in Canada are on the upswing. According to Ipsos Reid, the OTC allergy market in Canada is roughly a $190 million business, growing by 2-3 per cent per year. The key drivers of market growth: the growing incidence of allergies (seasonal and non-seasonal allergies) and longer lasting and more severe seasons (pollen and ragweed seasons).

“Pharmacists can play a role in managing the OTC allergy category by conveying up-to-date and accurate information for allergy sufferers,” says Kent Hatton, vice president of sales and e-commerce for Bayer. “Pharmacists can ensure they are well stocked with a variety of products to address different allergy symptoms and severities throughout different seasons.” Especially during peak allergy season in the spring.

Bolstering OTC sales is a number of switches from prescription allergy medications to over-the-counter. According to statistics published by Euromonitor International, a UK-based market research firm, nasal sprays, for example, have experienced one of the fastest growth rates (20 to 25 per cent of Canadians suffer from allergic rhinitis), an increase of 4 per cent.

Allergies or COVID-19 symptoms

Adding to the stress of the season is some patients’ uncertainty over whether they’re suffering from simple allergies or something more serious – COVID-19.

Sharing this infographic with patients could help.

Tips for helping your patients with seasonal allergies:

  • Try to understand your patients’ complete situations, not just their medication histories.
  • Ask patients open-ended questions to fully assess their current situation. Listen closely, then engage them in conversation to understand not only their illnesses but other factors that could be affecting their health.
  • Stay current with your own knowledge. The pandemic has confused the environment for many, who may wonder whether their symptoms are Covid-related or just seasonal allergies. Your knowledge will help to allay their fears.

Follow up with patients to help bring the care model full circle. Medication non-adherence is an enormous problem where pharmacists can play a role.

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