Don’t cut hayfever tablets, says asthma charity

If you live in England and have mild to moderate hayfever, you may now have to pay for allergy medicines including antihistamine tablets instead of getting them on prescription.

NHS England recently changed its guidance on prescribing many over-the-counter medicines for minor, short-term conditions, which it hopes will free up almost £100 million for frontline healthcare services. This means if you have hayfever and don’t have to pay for your prescriptions, you may now have to buy your antihistamine tablets instead of getting them for free.

Since hayfever can be a risk to people with asthma, the health charity Asthma UK is advising those affected not to be tempted to cut their allergy treatments from their weekly budget.

“Hayfever symptoms like a cough, itchy eyes and a runny nose are not just annoying, they’re potentially dangerous for people with asthma,” says Sonia Munde, head of Asthma UK’s Nurse Helpline.

“This is because hayfever makes your body release histamine and in some people this can trigger an asthma attack. So it’s vital you keep taking these medicines if you need them.”

The charity has offered advice to those who may be feeling the pinch as a result of the new guidance:

Talk to your GP If you’re concerned you may not be able to cope with the rising costs of managing your hayfever symptoms, speak to your doctor about it.

Think about switching brands Many generic brands are much cheaper than their branded counterparts, says Asthma UK, but they’re just as safe and effective. You can save pounds by switching from well-known medicines to unbranded ones that have exactly the same active ingredients. According to Asthma UK, one well-known brand currently sells seven antihistamine tablets for £3, while a generic brand sells 30 for 69p. This can add up to considerable savings over the course of a summer.

However, check with your GP or pharmacist before making any changes to medicines you used to get on prescription as doses can vary when you switch brands. Plus some antihistamines can make you drowsy, so ask your pharmacist to recommend a generic product that won’t affect you if that’s what you want.

Switch to a one-a-day tablet If you’ve been using the type of antihistamines that you take every eight hours to combat your hayfever symptoms, it may be cheaper to start taking a one-a-day tablet instead. Again, always check with your GP or pharmacist to make sure you’re taking the correct amount/dosage.

Manage your asthma triggers better If hayfever is one of your asthma triggers, it’s also a god idea to keep it under control by taking practical steps, not just taking allergy medication. According to Asthma UK, while this might not keep costs down in the short term, it may help you avoid the financial impact of an asthma attack and time off work. Here are the top three tips from Allergy UK on managing your hayfever:

1. Monitor pollen forecasts daily and stay indoors whenever possible when the pollen count is high (usually on warmer, dry days).

2. On high pollen days, shower and wash your hair after arriving home and change your clothes.

3. Avoid drying washing on a clothes line outside when pollen counts are high.

Did you know in 2018 World Asthma Day is on May 1st? This year why not help Asthma UK raise money for vital asthma research by taking part in its Big Asthma Bake Sale? Sign up here to receive your free Big Asthma Bake sale pack, which includes tips from Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain. You can hold your bake sale on any day throughout May, so it’s not too late to join in.

Meanwhile, for lots more tips on managing your asthma triggers – including keeping your hayfever symptoms under control – speak to your local Careway pharmacist. Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.