Make the most of your pharmacist

A pharmacist is another source of health advice and support – all without an appointment.

As well as your GP or asthma nurse and your consultant/specialist if you have one, 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. They're based in independent chemists, supermarket pharmacies, high-street pharmacy chains, GP surgeries and hospital pharmacies.

If you have any questions about your asthma or if you feel your asthma is stopping you from leading the life you'd like, you can walk into any community 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 private consultation rooms.

As well as getting information and reassurance from your pharmacist, some also offer free repeat prescription collection services and peak flow checks.

Here are our top tips on how to get support and advice from your local pharmacist:

Get the best from your medicines

You can ask your pharmacist about any prescription or over-the-counter medicines you're taking. This is especially 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.

To help you understand the medicines you take, 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 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.

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 to have any questions answered and to iron out any problems you're experiencing.

Make your inhaler work for you

Get the best from your medicines with a session on inhaler technique. Your pharmacist can check that you're using your inhaler(s) in the best way possible to ensure your medicine is effective in helping you to manage your asthma well.

Think your inhaler technique is fine? You might be surprised. Even if you've been using the same asthma medicine for years, you might have developed some bad habits with your technique. Lots of people aren't getting the full benefits, and a few tweaks to how you're using your inhaler may make all the difference.

If you've been put off using your preventer inhaler for any reason, talk to your pharmacist about it. They may be able to answer any questions you have and help ease your concerns.

Worried 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 chat to your pharmacist about any side effects you're worrying about or experiencing, and get advice on how to reduce or manage them?

Get help to stop smoking

Have you decided to or are you struggling to give up smoking? Chat with your pharmacist to help work out a plan to make it easier. They will be able to advise you on the right products to try, as well as give you information on local quit-smoking courses and services.

Need to manage your weight?

If you're carrying extra weight, it could be making your asthma symptoms worse. Talk to your pharmacist about local courses, products and tips to get back on track.

Questions you may have for your pharmacist

  • 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?
  • How can I give up smoking?
  • What's the best way to lose weight?

Be prepared

Your pharmacist may ask you a few questions about your asthma to ensure 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 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 February 2016

Next update due February 2019