Background Hayfever affects at least one in 10 people. The majority of hayfever is managed in the community setting where the management options are pharmaceutical and behavioural. Hayfever medications are available over the counter and on prescription from the general practitioner. Patient information leaflets are published to augment the advice given and to promote self-management, but these leaflets have rarely been subjected to critical review.
Objective To assess the quality of patient information leaflets written for people with hayfever and available from general practices and from community pharmacists.
Method A structured review of patient information leaflets about hayfever. During the peak grass pollen season copies of all leaflets available were collected from a random sample of community pharmacists and general practices in Wessex. The characteristics of the leaflet were recorded and the contents and presentation of each one was reviewed using the British Medical Association patient information appraisal system. Readability was assessed using the Simple Measure of Gobbledegook (SMOG). Two allergy-accredited specialists assessed each leaflet for accuracy.
Results During the peak pollen season no leaflets were available in 30% of the Community Pharmacists and 23% general practices. In total, 38 different leaflets were identified. All the leaflets reviewed were written for adults. Forty-seven percent of the leaflets had no publication date and one-third of those dated were at least 5 years old. In general the leaflets scored highly on issues of presentation, but less than half contained information on the full range of management and treatment options, many being biased towards a single or limited range of interventions. Seventy-nine percent leaflets were produced or sponsored by pharmaceutical companies and gave prominence to their own products. All the leaflets had readability scores requiring at least secondary education (SMOG score equal or greater than 9). At least one factual inaccuracy was identified in four-fifths of leaflets.
Conclusion A large number of leaflets are published for people with hayfever, but they are of variable quality and not accessible to all patients because of limited distribution or high readability scores. If all patients are to benefit from written information the authors and publishers of leaflets need to follow published recommendations, especially with respect to content and readability. In the absence of a national public health information strategy or a body that systematically vets patient information materials, clinicians must pay attention to the quality of information provided for or obtained elsewhere by their patients.
If you can't find a tool you're looking for, please click the link at the top of the page to "Go to old article view". Alternatively, view our Knowledge Base articles for additional help. Your feedback is important to us, so please let us know if you have comments or ideas for improvement.