Allergy education

by | April 20, 2016

Watsons launches initiatives for its customers to better understand allergies and empower them to self-manage their conditions.


Allergy Relief Bay.

Allergy Relief Bay.

Pharmacy retail chain Watsons has launched Allergy Care Services and Allergy Relief Bays, in an effort to “improve health support in the community”, shared Watsons Singapore’s chief operating officer, Dominic Wong. The services and bays will provide better understanding on allergies to its customers and empower them to self-manage their conditions.

Wong shared that these new initiatives have come about after the company conducted a survey last month of 4,000 customers and found that 42 percent suffer from allergies at least once a month and 43 percent do not seek any treatment from their symptoms. The survey also found 77 percent cited skin allergies as the top concern, followed by nose (35 percent) and eye (16 percent) allergies.


Allergy Care Services

Watsons Allergy Care Services will offer free allergy assessment for now on allergic rhinitis to customers who come into 38 of its pharmacies and provide free follow-up consultations up to three times, every two to four weeks. Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, affects 10 percent of those in the ages of 40 to 59, and 9.5 percent for those over the age of 60 (and when allergic rhinitis remains stable or slowly decreases, explained Dr Eng Soh Ping, consultant Ear Nose Throat (ENT) surgeon at ASCENT Ear Nose Throat Specialist Group, in partnership with Fullerton Healthcare). Signs and symptoms of allergic rhinitis include sneezing that is sudden and happens repeatedly, runny nose with clear discharge, itchy nose, blocked nose, cough and allergic conjunctivitis (itchiness, tearing and/or burning of both eyes). Watsons will be looking into focusing on skin allergies at a later time.

Previously, a customer suffering from an allergy would need to see a pharmacist who would then recommend the best treatment. Joy Chong, principal clinical pharmacist at Watsons, explained the process is now more structured, as well as Watsons having dedicated space on allergies in its outlets. She said: “Through our interactions with customers, we discovered that many patients had a poor understanding of their allergic rhinitis symptoms. In addition, many do not use nasal sprays properly.

“As part of the new Allergy Care Services, customers at Watsons Pharmacy will be assessed using a set of structured questionnaire to determine the severity and frequency of their allergic rhinitis symptoms. The follow-up consultations provided by Watsons pharmacists include individualised advice about appropriate medication use and preventive healthcare tips.”

Watsons pharmacist helping a customer at the new Allergy Relief Bay.

Watsons pharmacist helping a customer at the new Allergy Relief Bay.

Watsons will be working with two key partners – NUS Department of Pharmacy and Fullerton Healthcare. The collaboration with NUS will address Watsons and NUS identifying customers’ needs, treatment gaps, new community pharmacy services and pharmacists’ needs in continuing education, and evaluate the outcomes of these services.


Allergy Relief Bays

Watsons will also initially have in 15 of its outlets the Allergy Relief Bays, which will have digital screens with demonstration videos on how to use nasal sprays, and other allergic rhinitis symptoms that customers may normally dismiss such as sore throats and dry coughs. At the bays, there will also be a range of products such as eye drops, moisturising creams, Vitamin C tablets, flu and cold medication, non-steroidal inhalers and nasal sprays, and more. It will have a glass showcase of dispensing products for allergies so customers can see up-close on products that would normally be behind the pharmacy counters.

For more complicated cases to ENT or dermatology, Watsons will refer the customers to specialists at Fullerton Healthcare. Health talks on allergies are also on the cards for Watsons customers in May.


** Allergy Relief Bays will be located at Ngee Ann City, Tiong Bahru Plaza, Bugis Junction, Raffles City Shopping Centre, Toa Payoh HDB, NEX, Northpoint, Novena Square, Causeway Point, Waterway Point, Vivo City, Parkway Parade, Bedok Mall, Jurong Point and JEM.


SIDEBOX: Managing allergic rhinitis

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, medications for the management of allergic rhinitis include:

• Non-drowsy antihistamines
• Steroid nasal sprays
• Decongestant nasal sprays
• Eye drops
• Saline nasal wash

Other ways to manage allergic rhinitis:

• Avoidance of allergens (substances that cause an allergic reaction) is the best management.
• Numerous cleaning methods may be used to keep your house clean, which can significantly reduce allergens.
• Control the quality of air in your home. Air purifiers with HEPA filters may be considered to keep indoor air as clean as possible, Keep your home cool, maintain a low humidity and ensure good ventilation.
• Bed sheets should be washed with hot water weekly and allergen-proof casings used for pillows and mattresses.
• If you have any pets, keep them out of the bedroom and off the furniture.

(** The information above is from a brochure by Watsons on allergic rhinitis.)





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