PHARMACISTS in Scotland are to help combat potentially fatal allergic reactions by providing emergency treatment to patients.
Community Pharmacy Scotland said around 700 of its members had already signed up to a scheme offering emergency care to people affected by extreme allergies.
The initiative was launched by Scottish Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson, who suffered a serious allergic reaction to nuts earlier this year.
Anaphylactic shock is a severe and sometimes fatal allergic reaction, which could be triggered by a particular food or insect bites.
Anaphylaxis sufferers can quickly suffer swelling, problems breathing and feel light-headed and faint, requiring urgent treatment using adrenaline which can be delivered using special injecting equipment such as an EpiPen.
But in some cases people may not be carrying their medication, or are unaware they are at risk of a reaction until it happens, meaning access to emergency treatment is vital.
To combat this, pharmacists in Scotland will now help provide treatment to anyone suffering anaphylactic shock, which kills up to 30 people a year across the UK.
Ms Swinson, MP for East Dunbartonshire, went into anaphylactic shock after inadvertently eating nuts earlier this summer.
She believes only prompt medical attention helped avert a potentially lethal outcome.
“I was immensely grateful for the prompt and excellent medical treatment I received at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital when I had to use my adrenaline injector,” Ms Swinson said.
“Anaphylaxis is an extreme and severe allergic reaction which can affect the whole body within minutes, though sometimes it takes hours.”
Community Pharmacy Scotland, which represents the owners of Scotland’s 1,250 community pharmacies, launched an awareness and anaphylaxis emergency treatment campaign at the Auchinairn Pharmacy in Bishopbriggs as part of efforts to make sure people get urgent treatment when needed.
Martin Green, the organisation’s chairman, said: “Jo’s own case was very high profile, and brought what is a very real and, for those affected, a very terrifying issue to light.
“Those who suffer from some of these serious allergies – for example to nuts, shellfish, or insect bites and stings – know that an attack can be lethal and getting help quickly is essential.”
Mr Green said after talking to pharmacists and charities about how to raise awareness of anaphylaxis and increase access to emergency treatment they had decided to launch their campaign.
“That is why we have asked our members to sign up to providing emergency anaphylaxis treatment, and more than half have already committed,” he said.
“In future, wherever a pharmacy displays an orange anaphylaxis treatment cross, people will know they can get trained help.
“That means that throughout Scotland’s cities, towns and villages hundreds of community pharmacies will be geared up to help in an emergency.”
Ms Swinson said it was important that people with severe allergies had an adrenalin injector with them, such as an EpiPen which was available on prescription.
She said she supported the new campaign to improve access to emergency treatment where needed.
“ I would encourage pharmacists, and anyone else for that matter, to spread the message of the importance of giving adrenalin and calling an ambulance as soon as possible after someone reacts,” Ms Swinson said.