Are You Ready For Allergy Season…Again?

woman-with-spring-allergies-sneezing

(BlackDoctor.org) — Did you know every season is associated with certain types of allergies? According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, it may not just be the season that is aggravating your allergies, causing you to sneeze and wheeze.

Did you know your allergies might also be in high gear because of a few simple mistakes you are making?

Here are some simple tips to help you manage, or even avoid, allergy symptoms:

• Don’t assume you know exactly what you are allergic to. More than two-thirds of people who think their allergies only occur during the spring season actually have year-round allergies. An allergist can pinpoint the source of your allergic reactions and recommend the right treatment.

• Don’t buy over-the-counter medications before you know that they can alleviate your allergy symptoms. Consult an allergist to determine which treatment options are best for you. Immunotherapy using nasal spray or shots may even get rid of your allergies permanently.

• Don’t wait until symptoms are full-blown to take allergy medications. Before the spring allergy season starts, begin taking a medication that’s worked for you in the past.

• Take steps to avoid allergy triggers. Experts suggest that if you are allergic to pollen, for example, keep your windows closed, take a shower after being outside and avoid going out in the middle of the day when pollen counts are highest.

• Identify allergy-related conditions you may suffer from. If raw or fresh fruits or other foods aggravate your allergy symptoms—making you sniffle and sneeze, and your mouth, lips and throat get itchy—you may have oral allergy syndrome. This condition affects about one-third of seasonal allergy sufferers. While cooking or peeling these foods may help, it is wise to consult an allergist.

If you have any questions about allegies – what to do, or if you actually have them at all, be sure to consult with your doctor, or an allergist, as soon as possible.

 

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Pharmacists Expand Role To Help Educate Patients

african american pharmacist(BlackDoctor.org) — The average adult fills about a dozen prescriptions and refills every year; after age 65, they fill more than 30 prescriptions annually. For many people, their local pharmacist may be as familiar as their doctor — and often a lot easier to get time with. Some pharmacists are building on that position, expanding their role from drug dispenser to drug educator and chronic disease coach. By doing so, they may fill a void created by the shortage of primary-care physicians while boosting their business.

Pharmacists: Educating The Community

Janis McGannon has heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. A few months ago she accepted an offer from a nurse at the Bay Street Pharmacy near her home in Sebastian, Fla., to join a new “healthy heart” program at the pharmacy.

At a meeting of the program’s participants, Theresa Tolle, a pharmacist and the owner of Bay Street, gave a talk to about a dozen customers about cholesterol: what it is, how it works and how it can be managed. After everyone was weighed and measured, they received a goody bag that included a pedometer to encourage them to walk 10,000 steps a day.

The next month, the topic was blood pressure. In addition to having their pressures checked and discussing the medications they were taking, participants learned about using light weights and stretchy bands for exercise.

In between monthly meetings, McGannon, 74, logs onto a website to record what she’s eating and how much she’s walking. Tolle and the nurse e-mail her regularly to check on her diet or offer tips to keep her on track. Medicare doesn’t cover the $20 monthly fee for the program, but McGannon thinks it’s worth it.

“Most of us need to be reminded to do these things, and I’m reminded every day,” she says. “It’s right there on the computer.”

In recent years, both independent and chain pharmacies have come under pressure from mail-order pharmacy services, in part because some insurers require that their members get their drugs through the mail. (In 2009, mail-order prescriptions made up 6.6 percent of all retail prescriptions, according to the national association of chain drug stores.) Drug chains and mass-market retailers such as Walmart have fought back with some success, offering $4 generic prescriptions, for example, and 90-day supplies. As for independent pharmacists, “it makes so much sense … to offer services beyond just filling prescriptions,” says Steve Lawrence, a senior vice president with Cardinal.

In the past year, Walgreens has rolled out a diabetes education program that provides customers in 10 cities with one-on-one sessions about the drugs they’re taking, how to use a blood glucose meter and other issues. The program is provided through insurers or employers; more than 1,000 people have participated so far, says Colin Watts, chief innovation officer for Walgreens.

In January, CVS Caremark kicked off a program that identifies insured diabetes patients who aren’t getting the drugs they need. The company contacts these patients and invites them to talk with a pharmacist by phone or in person at the store. The company plans similar programs for heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Pharmacists: Improving Drug Adherence

Pharmacists are perfectly positioned to help address the drug “adherence” problem: Research shows that only about half of people take their medications as prescribed. They may fill a prescription but not take the drugs as instructed, for example, or they may discontinue a course of treatment before it’s completed; often, people such as McGannon — who take multiple pills for multiple chronic conditions — simply forget. Lack of drug “adherence,” costs $290 billion in medical costs annually, according to a study by NEHI, a health research organization.

Bay Street is one of 50 independent pharmacies offering the heart program nationwide. It and a diabetes management program launched two years ago — available at more than 400 independent pharmacies — were developed by Augusta, Ga., pharmacist David Pope, who is working in partnership with drug wholesaler Cardinal Health. “We’re providing a communication tool to allow pharmacists to step into a coaching role,” says Pope.

Pharmacists: Doctor-Approved

Primary-care physicians are generally supportive of such efforts as long as the pharmacists coordinate care with doctors.

“Answering questions about prescription drugs is important,” says Roland Goertz, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “But with the time pressures physicians are under, they can only accomplish so much.”

For many patients, pharmacists are the easiest to access and the most trusted medical professional they know. In a Gallup survey released in December, pharmacists ranked third among professions for honesty and ethics. That put them behind nurses (No. 1) but ahead of doctors (No. 5).

When pharmacists reach out to patients, patients may find themselves turning to them for advice and information more frequently.

That’s what’s happened in Janis McGannon’s case. Now that she knows Thesesa Tolle and the nurse at Bay State, she calls them or stops by when she has a question about her medication.

“Theresa’s very willing to sit down with you and talk about how to take a drug and how it will affect you,” says McGannon.

That’s not always the case with doctors, she says: “Sometimes they just gloss over things. They just say, ‘You’ll be fine. Call my office if you have problems.'”