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Prim Care Respir J. 2005 Aug;14(4):195-203. Epub 2005 Jul 11.

Management of allergic problems in primary care: time for a rethink?

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Department of General Practice and Primary Care, University of Aberdeen, Westburn Road, Aberdeen AB25 2AY, UK.


Allergic diseases affect 20-30% of the UK population and when severe are associated with considerable morbidity and occasional mortality. Initiatives to improve allergy services in the UK have been led by consultant allergists and have focussed on increasing the number of hospital training posts to improve access to specialist services. A high profile campaign to raise awareness of the lack of allergy services has so far failed to generate further training numbers for allergy as a single specialty. Although the campaign to improve tertiary allergy services continues, most mild or moderate allergy symptoms (e.g. hayfever, allergic asthma, urticaria and some food allergy problems), can be managed successfully in primary care with appropriate interest and training. Despite the high and increasing numbers of patients with allergy and the ease with which the majority of symptoms can be controlled, many doctors in primary care are reluctant to take a more proactive approach to managing allergic conditions. This appears to be due to concerns about overburdening an already busy service, but may also be due to recommendations from allergy specialists which have implied that high quality allergy care is not possible without identification of specific allergic triggers using skin prick tests or blood tests. In reality, symptoms can usually be controlled using pharmacotherapy, although a working knowledge of the appropriate guidelines is helpful. In this paper, we propose minimum levels of knowledge for all practitioners in order to raise the standards of primary care allergy management, and provide recommendations for training for those wishing to manage successfully more difficult allergy cases and allergy diagnosis.

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