Newsome’s Notes

Daryl Newsome FBDO R CL, SMC (Tech)
ABDO president

Advising on seasonal allergies is well within the DO’s scope of practice

The days are getting longer, the temperature is rising week by week, my garden and the hedgerows are full of spring flowers – and my patients are starting to come in with red, allergic, itchy eyes.

Being a contact lens optician, most of these patients are directed to me – but advising on seasonal allergies is well within the scope of practice of a regular dispensing optician on the ‘shop floor’. It is part of our role as eyecare professionals to be aware of the signs and symptoms of seasonal allergies, and we are well placed to give advice and guidance at our dispensing desks.

The ABDO Clinical Hub, only available to members, has all the information you need to help patients – and a sound reading around the subject is a worthwhile investment at the beginning of the season.

Initial questions for these patients should always be: ‘Is there any pain or discomfort?’; ‘Is your vision affected?’; ‘How long have you been suffering?’; ‘Have you done anything that helps with the symptoms?’

Once you are confident that it is seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, it can be helpful for the patient to identify which pollen they are sensitive to. This can be discovered by using a pollen calendar, such as the free one published online by Kleenex. It tells you which pollen is around and when, and indicates when the season for a particular pollen ends, which can be reassuring for your patient as it puts an end in sight.

Then some treatment drops can be recommended. You should discuss with your team which you should use as a first choice, and whether you’re going to stock it or signpost the patient to a pharmacy for supply.

Don’t forget – especially if there is a co-morbidity of dry eyes – that re-wetting drops can be soothing, as a reduced tear pool doesn’t mean a reduced amount of pollen. It just means a higher concentration within the tears, which can be mechanically irritating too as pollen is just a dust.

Cold compresses can reduce symptoms temporarily, while anti-inflammatory eye drops and maybe some topical antihistamines should also improve patient comfort. However, it is being able to have a knowledgeable conversation with their dispensing optician that provides the patient with added value, trust and confidence.