Sneeze the day: Nurses to lead allergy awareness

By Our Reporter
Representative image // Photo by SJ Objio on Unsplash

Hives, asthma, or eczema – common signs of an allergic reaction. While mild allergies cause irritation and discomfort, severe cases can lead to anaphylaxis and even death. Health experts at the University of South Australia are now advocating for enhanced allergy training for nurses to improve treatments, access reliable evidence-based resources, and educate patients and their families.

This initiative is particularly relevant with World Allergy Week approaching (23-29 June). Currently, over four million Australians suffer from allergic diseases, a figure expected to nearly double in the next two decades. Alarmingly, 40 to 50% of children exhibit allergy symptoms within their first four years of life.

Dr Deryn Thompson, an experienced allergy registered nurse and lecturer at UniSA, highlights the increasing demand for medical services related to allergic diseases, which is becoming a significant public health issue as noted by the National Allergy Council.

Dr Thompson emphasises the need for nurses, particularly those in primary healthcare, to provide accurate allergy care and education. Nurses must be capable of explaining allergies and dispelling myths about allergies, intolerances, and mail-order tests and treatments. They can serve as a crucial source of evidence-based information and advocate for early intervention.

Currently, many nurses self-fund their postgraduate studies, making it challenging for them to afford allergy training, which leaves them underprepared to support allergy patients. The National Allergy Council’s goal is to make allergy care more accessible across Australia, positioning nurses to deliver this care with the right training and knowledge.

The recent federal investment of $50.2 million to upskill Australian nurses is a promising step towards expanding allergy education among registered nurses, especially those specialising in primary healthcare. UniSA’s Professional Certificate in Allergy Nursing, offered in collaboration with the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy Incorporated (ASCIA), is the only course of its kind in Australia. It equips nurses with the skills and knowledge to care for children and adults with allergic conditions using best practices based on evidence.

Dr Thompson notes that the growing pressure on healthcare services means many people struggle to access allergy support, with primary healthcare often being the first point of contact. With the current push to place nursing at the forefront of workforce reforms, accessible allergy education could significantly improve outcomes for millions of Australians.

All nurses should have access to these courses to provide the best care possible and offer another avenue for support and advice. Training nurses to deliver allergy advice and treatment will help reduce the burden on the Australian health system. Making allergy training more available and accessible to all nurses in primary healthcare is essential.

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