According to the Malaysian Society of Allergy and Immunology, it is expected that by 2020, half of the Malaysian population will be allergic to something, based on the current trends. Food allergy is one of the most common manifestations of allergy, especially in children.

Globally, as reported in a 2013 survey conducted by the World Allergy Organisation, the vast majority of countries surveyed had reported an increase in food allergy and no countries have reported a decline over the past 10 years.

Serious cases of food allergy can significantly affect the quality of life of its sufferers. As the prevalence of food allergy continues, community pharmacies need to join the effort in addressing the challenges and play a role in tackling the problem.

Food allergy consultation and advice for patients

In addition to prescribing medication as a solution to their food allergy, it is equally important for community pharmacists to help patients by making an effort to get to the bottom of the issue through counselling.

Pharmacists can help identify the causes and factors that may lead to the allergy, review things that can trigger or worsen the problem, as well as discuss changes that can be initiated to minimise the symptoms. This is also an opportunity for pharmacists to address misconceptions and educate patients on the subject of food allergy and food intolerance.

A dedicated section for gluten-free products

Community pharmacies can recognise the needs of consumers who suffer from Coeliac’s disease and have adverse reaction to gluten by dedicating a section for gluten-free products. This is not only a move to cater to the needs of the local community but also travellers who might have difficulty searching for gluten-free products elsewhere.

Along with this initiative, pharmacy staffs need to be competent and able to direct consumers to the right alternatives based on their individual conditions.

The latest research on food allergies

In order to educate patients and consumers, it is vital for pharmacists to always keep up with the latest research findings, clinical trials, and product updates that are related to food allergy and intolerance. The Malaysian Society of Allergy and Immunology (MSAI), the Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Malaysia (OGSM) and the Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA) had formulated the Guidelines for the Prevention of Allergy for healthcare professionals.

Such resources are valuable references for community pharmacists. In addition, participation in scientific meetings, conferences and trainings on food allergy can further empower community pharmacists and increase their competency in managing patients with allergies.

Advocating for food allergy awareness

Supporting and participating in campaigns that promote food allergy education and awareness is a great way for a community pharmacy to be an advocate for the cause.

Community pharmacies can share various resources not only for the benefit of patients who suffer from food allergy, but also the community in general. This can be done by developing educational material and resources on food allergy to be shared on the pharmacy website or distributed during community events. MIMS

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