As well as your GP or asthma nurse, a pharmacist is another health expert you can turn to for advice and support - and the great thing is you don't need an appointment.
Pharmacists are highly-trained healthcare professionals who can answer questions about lots of health conditions, including asthma.
You'll find a pharmacist in your local or high street pharmacy. They're also based in supermarket pharmacies, GP surgeries and hospitals.
If you have any questions or concerns about your asthma, it's easy to walk into any local pharmacy and ask to see the pharmacist.
On a practical level, this is useful because:
- you don't need an appointment
- some pharmacies are open outside of GP surgery hours
- many pharmacies have a private consultation room.
As well as getting information and reassurance from your pharmacist, you can ask about free prescription collection services, peak flow checks, stop smoking and losing weight advice.
Ask the pharmacist to help you get the best from your asthma medicines
You can ask your pharmacist about your asthma prescription. This is useful if you have concerns about side effects, that you're not using your inhaler correctly, or that your inhaler's not working properly, for example.
You can also ask about any over-the-counter medicines you're taking to help your asthma, such as anti-histamines for hay fever.
For example, you might want to ask questions like these about any of your medicines:
- What does this medicine do?
- How will this medicine help?
- How long will it take for the medicine to work?
- How long will I need to use this medicine for?
- How and when should I take this medicine?
- Should I avoid any other medicines, drinks, foods or activities when I'm taking this medicine?
- What should I do if the medicine doesn't agree with me?
- Can you check my inhaler technique?
There are also two other ways your pharmacist can support you with medicines:
Medicines Use Review
If you're in England, Northern Ireland or Wales (though not Scotland), you can ask for a free 20-minute consultation called a Medicines Use Review. This helps you understand more about the medicines you're taking.
This is a great chance for you to:
- ask questions about your medicines
- learn more about the medicines you take and how they work
- discuss any worries you might have
- ask for help to overcome any problems you may be experiencing, such as difficulties taking your medicines or side effects.
New Medicine Service
If you live in England and you've been diagnosed with asthma recently, or if you've been prescribed a new asthma medicine for the first time, you can also ask your pharmacist about the New Medicine Service.
This free service is a chance to work with your pharmacist during the first few weeks of taking your new medicine.
Your pharmacist can answer any questions you have about the new medicine, and talk through any problems you're experiencing.
Taking your asthma inhaler in the best way
Using your inhaler(s) in the best way possible helps you make the most of your asthma medicine so ask your pharmacist for a session on inhaler technique.
Even if you've been using the same asthma medicine for years, it's easy to slip into some bad habits with your technique. Lots of people aren't getting the full benefits of their inhaler because of poor inhaler technique.
The good news is your GP, asthma nurse, or your pharmacist can help. A few small changes to how you're using your inhaler may make all the difference.
Reassurance about side effects
If you're worried about side effects and it's putting you off using your asthma medicines exactly as your GP prescribed, you could be putting your health at risk.
Why not ask your pharmacist about any side effects you're worried about, and get advice on how to reduce or manage them?
Stop smoking advice
If you want to know how you can give up smoking, ask your pharmacist. They can help you work out a plan to make it easier.
They'll be able to give you advice about the right products to try. They can also give you information on local stop-smoking courses and services.
Support and advice to manage your weight
If you want some help and advice about the best ways to lose weight your pharmacist can help.
Being overweight can make asthma symptoms worse.
So if you'd like to try losing some weight ask your pharmacist about products available to help, or local courses for extra support.
Questions your pharmacist may have for you
Your pharmacist may ask you a few questions about your asthma to make sure you get the best possible advice.
So it may be worth taking a few minutes to think about the following questions before you go:
In the past month:
- Have you had trouble sleeping because of asthma symptoms (including a cough)?
- Have you had any symptoms during the day (cough, wheeze, chest tightness or breathlessness)?
- Has your asthma interfered with your usual activities (eg. housework, work, school etc)?
They may also ask:
- How many times did you use your reliever inhaler (usually blue) in the last week?
- Do you have a written asthma action plan?
- Do you use a peak flow meter and diary?
- Do you keep a symptom diary?
Last updated April 2018
Next update due February 2019