Act now to help your patients with asthma navigate allergy season, writes Stephenie Shea
Asthma is a common chronic condition of the airways, where one in nine Australians are affected—that’s reported to be around 2.5 million people. Death from asthma is uncommon, however, they are still reported each year.
With the change of season now upon us, and spring being the peak time for allergies, it’s an important time for pharmacists to focus on helping their customers manage their asthma as part of the health care team.
As one of the most accessible health care professionals in the community, pharmacists are well placed to check patients’ inhaler technique when they present with a request for medication to be dispensed.
Pharmacists should be available to help step through any challenges the patient may be experiencing in using the inhaler correctly, as well as helping to address any barriers to compliance to their medication. Also, many pharmacies offer a reminder service, which is a great tool to help patients remember to have their preventer medication dispensed when it is due.
It has also been reported that many people with asthma do not have a current written asthma action plan. In a 2014-15 self-reported survey, only one in five people aged 15 and over with asthma have a written asthma action plan.
Asthma action plans have formed part of the National Asthma Council Australia’s guidelines for the management of asthma for the past 24 years. There are a number of reasons why a written asthma plan is beneficial for any sufferer and pharmacist:
- An individualised written asthma action plan, prepared for patients with asthma by a healthcare professional, can help to reduce the risk of dying of asthma and improves asthma health outcomes.
- Pharmacists are well placed to help patients and carers to introduce or review these plans, and can encourage them to speak to their doctor about developing a plan which helps to recognise worsening asthma and provides clear instructions on what to do in response.
- There are several educational resources that can be accessed on the National Asthma Council Australia website. It is also beneficial for pharmacists to be aware of what to do for asthma first aid. Quick action may help prevent an asthma attack from becoming an asthma emergency.
Stephenie Shea is a qualified pharmacist and National Professional Services & Pharmaceuticals Manager for Discount Drug Stores Franchise Support Office.