Make the most of your pharmacist

A pharmacist is another health expert you can turn to for asthma advice and support. And the great thing is you don't need an appointment.

As well as your GP or asthma nurse, your local pharmacist is another highly trained healthcare professional who can answer questions about your 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 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 GP surgery hours
  • many pharmacies have a private consultation room.

You can ask about free prescription collection services, peak flow checks, stop smoking and losing weight advice.

Ask the pharmacist how to get the best from your asthma medicines

You can ask your pharmacist about the asthma medicines you've been prescribed. This is useful if you have concerns about things like side effects, using your inhaler, or your inhaler not working properly.

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: 

  • 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?

Medicines Use Review

If you're in England, Northern Ireland or Wales (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, for example about side effects
  • ask for help if you're finding it difficult to take your medicines for any reason.

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 having.

Taking your asthma inhaler in the best way

Using your inhaler(s) in the best way helps you make the most of your asthma medicine. You can 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 to your asthma symptoms.

Reassurance about side effects

If you're worried about side effects and it's putting you off using your asthma medicines as prescribed, you'll be more at risk of an asthma attack.  

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

Smoking triggers asthma symptoms. It also stops your asthma medicines from working as well as they could do. 

If you want to know more about giving up smoking, you can ask your pharmacist. They can help you work out a plan to make quitting easier.

They'll be able to give you advice about the right stop-smoking products to try. They can also give you information on local courses and services to help you stop smoking.

Support and advice to manage your weight

Being overweight can make asthma symptoms worse.

If you want some help and advice about the best ways to lose weight your pharmacist can help.

You can ask your pharmacist about weight-loss products, or local courses to support you. 

Questions your pharmacist may have for you

Your pharmacist may ask you a few questions about your asthma. This is to make sure they give you the best possible advice.

If you can, take 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:

Last updated April 2018

Next update due April 2021