As the poet Pablo Neruda said “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming”, yet every year so many hayfever sufferers act surprised when they find themselves suddenly battling blocked noses and watery eyes due to the pollen count rising. Although I have never suffered myself, I’ve already heard mumbles from some of my colleagues that the hayfever season has begun.
Most people only associate hayfever with grass pollen in the summer months, which affects 95 per cent of sufferers, and don’t necessarily know about allergies to other types of pollen, including trees and weeds, so it helps to help educate customers on what types of pollen they could be allergic to. Birch pollen affects around 25 per cent of hayfever sufferers and is usually the first type of pollen to appear in early to mid-April.
Like most things in life, the key to tackling hayfever is to be prepared, yet PAGB’s recent Self Care Nation report found that a shocking four per cent of people have visited A&E for hayfever symptoms. Instead, a local pharmacy should always be the first port of call for anyone suffering with hayfever-like symptoms. Pharmacy staff can start talking to customers about the condition early to encourage them to be ready and to not rush off to their GP or A&E when their symptoms appear.
Take time to ask people about their symptoms and how long they’ve been present to allow you to recommend appropriately. Some customers may have always taken only anti-histamines to reduce their symptoms, but could also benefit from targeted relief with a nasal decongestant spray or sodium cromoglicate eye drops to help ease discomfort. If the medication can cause drowsiness, or affect their ability to drive, this could have an impact on the customer’s day to day life or work and you may need to recommend something else.
Nearly 18 million people suffer with hayfever in the UK, with experts predicting that this figure will only continue to rise – presenting a good opportunity for pharmacies to grow their sales in this category.
The value of the hayfever market currently stands at over £116 million, but sales are not strictly limited to one format alone like some other categories and it’s evident from sales data that customers are seeing the benefit from more targeted relief products. Tablets are still the most popular allergy treatment option with sales currently reaching over £80 million, but sales of sprays have grown 6.5 per cent year on year and syrups aren’t far behind, growing at 6.4 per cent. (Market data: Nielsen 52 weeks ending 25.02.17)
Hayfever can be debilitating for some people, but by effectively helping customers manage their symptoms each season, I’ve no doubt you’ll see the benefits long after spring has gone.
This column first appeared in P3 magazine.