Man struggling with hay fever

Worried about the cost of your hay fever medicines?

We explain the recent changes to prescribing guidelines and look at ways to get cheaper medicines

Worried about the rising cost of hay fever medicines?  

NHS England recently changed its guidance to say that people with mild-to-moderate hay fever, coughs and colds must pay for their medicines instead of getting them on prescription.

Buying antihistamines, nasal sprays and decongestants could make life much more expensive, especially if you normally get free prescriptions. It might be tempting to cut your treatments from your weekly budget, but Sonia Munde, Head of Asthma UK’s Nurse Helpline, says:

“Coughs and colds are one of the most common asthma triggers. Hay fever symptoms like a cough, itchy eyes and a runny nose are not just annoying, they’re potentially dangerous for people with asthma. This is because hay fever 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.”

Ways to keep treatment costs down

Talk to your GP

If you’re worried about the rising costs of managing your hay fever or cold symptoms, it’s worth letting your doctor know. They might be able to suggest cheaper alternatives or use their discretion to write you a prescription instead.

Think about switching brands

Many ‘generic’ medicines are much cheaper than their branded counterparts, but just as effective and safe.

Save pounds by switching from products like Piroteze, Clarytin and Piriton to unbranded tablets with the same active ingredients. For example, at the time of writing, one well-known company is selling seven tablets for £3.00, while the generic version costs 69p for 30 tablets. Imagine the savings over a whole summer.  

Money Saving Expert has a useful list of cheaper alternative hay fever meds.

Please talk to your doctor before you make any changes to the medicines you used to get on prescription, and watch out for:

  • Doses can vary when you switch brands, so check the back of the packet.
  • Some hay fever and cough and cold medicines make you drowsy – check the generic version won’t have you nodding off if that’s not what you want.

Consider moving to the ‘one a day’ version

It could work out cheaper to opt for long-lasting doses. Again, you’ll need to weigh up the options by checking the packaging and making sure you’re still taking safe amounts.

Bulk buy online

Once you’ve worked out what active ingredients help you to manage your pollen allergy or congestion, you can shop around and hunt down the cheapest generic versions online. Stocking up on medicine is OK as long as you’re careful to use it up by the expiry date – try to avoid buying too much because then you’ll be wasting money.

Stay safe by following this guidance when you buy any medicine online.

Stock up when there’s a sale and grab an even bigger bargain

… but make sure the expiry date isn’t before the next hay fever or cold season!

Find out how to manage your asthma triggers better

Asthma triggers like colds and hay fever need to be carefully managed to keep symptoms at bay. Here are some practical steps you can take to keep your pollen allergy or cold under control. While this might not keep costs down in the short term, it’ll help you avoid the financial impact of an asthma attack and time off work.

And… support Asthma UK to roll back this unfair change

Asthma UK opposes the decision to stop medicines that manage asthma triggers being available on prescription. A huge number of people (around 80%) say their asthma symptoms are triggered by pollen, and sadly, this can have devastating consequences. In the National Review of Asthma deaths, 15% of people who died of an asthma attack had hay fever as a known trigger.

We are working together with 40 other health charities to make prescription charges fairer by calling for an urgent review of the current prescription charges system in England. You can support us by making a donation.