Your local or high street pharmacy holds inside it a vital resource for people with asthma:
the local pharmacist. Along with your asthma nurse and family doctor, your local
pharmacist will be able to answer questions about your asthma as a highly-trained
healthcare professional. You may also choose to talk to the pharmacist about peak flow
checks, advice about weight loss, stopping smoking and free prescription collection
Pharmacists are also based in many GP surgeries, hospitals and supermarket pharmacies.
It’s easy to wander into any pharmacy and ask to talk to the pharmacist if you have any
concerns about your condition. This is a really useful service, because…
❖ No appointment is needed;
❖ Lots of pharmacies even have their own private consultation room;
❖ Some pharmacies are open outside GP surgery hours.
Advice about Medicines
Your pharmacist will be able to talk to you about any over-the-counter or prescription
medications you might be using. A free 20-minute consultation called a Medicines Use
Review is also available to many people in Northern Ireland, Wales and England, you just
need to ask your pharmacist if you’re eligible. This consultation will give you the
opportunity to talk to the pharmacist about any worries you might have, difficulties you
might have taking your medicines, side effects and other medicine-related issues.
If you’ve recently been given a new asthma medicine, you can ask your local pharmacist
about the New Medicine Service. This is another free consultation service, specifically
designed for people in your position.
Questions to ask your pharmacist might include…
❖ What’s the purpose of this medicine?
❖ When will it kick in?
❖ Are there any drinks, foods, activities or medications I should avoid while I’m taking
❖ If I experience side effects, what should I do?
❖ Can you check my inhaler technique?
❖ How long will I need to take this medicine?
❖ How and when should I take this medicine?
❖ How will this medicine help?
Screening for Asthma
It’s important that professional advice is sought if you’re experiencing asthma symptoms
like wheezing, coughing, a tight feeling in the chest or breathlessness, even if you’re not
sure if you have asthma.
There is no one test used to diagnose asthma. However, many pharmacists will be able to
use a peak flow meter to measure how well your lungs are working. This test is simple,
painless and completely safe.
For a proper diagnosis, you’ll need a more thorough examination to be carried out by your
doctor. However, a screening from a pharmacist can be very helpful in getting the ball
rolling toward appropriate treatment.
Asthma Inhaler Advice
You can only make the most of your asthma medicine if you’re using your inhaler in the
right way. Many pharmacists will be able to offer sessions that cover inhaler techniques.
It’s easy to slip into some bad habits with your inhalers, even if you’ve been using the same
medication for years. Poor inhaler technique means many people aren’t getting the full
benefit of their medicine.
Your pharmacist can help, as can your GP and asthma nurse, so all is not lost! Your asthma
symptoms may well be greatly improved by a few small changes to the way you use your
Asthma Control Test
Some pharmacies offer an Asthma Control test for patients aged 18 and over. This
assesses your asthma condition over the preceding four weeks, and can be done in-store
very quickly. The pharmacist will then be able to provide personalised advice on the
management of your condition. If you have an Asthma Action Plan, they can also talk you
Side Effect Advice
You’ll be more at risk of an asthma attack if you put off using your asthma medicines
because of concerns about side effects. You pharmacist will be able to talk to you about
any potential side effects, as well as giving you advice on how to manage or reduce them.
“Every day community pharmacy is the primary health contact for 1.6 million patients – a
total of 438 million contacts per annum in England alone.” – NHS England
Advice about Quitting Smoking
Smoking – or even just spending time with people while they smoke – can bring on asthma
symptoms in the best cases and asthma attacks in the worst cases. Smoking can also
inhibit the effectiveness of your asthma medicines. We’ve talked about this in greater detail
in our post.
Can People with Asthma Smoke?
You can ask your pharmacist if you want more information about giving up smoking. They
can help to make quitting easier by working with you to create a plan of action.
Your pharmacist will be able to give you advice about which stop-smoking products are
safe for you to use. They’ll also be able to provide information about local services and
support groups which may come in handy.
As Neal Patel of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society explains, “Some people don’t like to
trouble their doctor. However we know that early treatment is best and that’s
particularly important for asthma.
“If you wake up with a cough see your pharmacist who should be able to provide
something to relieve the symptoms. It could prevent a hospital admission.”
Weight Management Advice
Your asthma symptoms can be made worse if you’re also overweight. Your pharmacist can
help by providing advice and support on the best ways to lose weight. They’ll be able to
give you some great information about local courses to support you, and about handling
weight-loss products safely.
For more information about asthma, check out Need2Know’s Essential Guide to
Asthma which discusses the diagnosis and symptoms of asthma and looks at how it
affects all age groups. Understanding asthma is the key to gaining control of its
symptoms and enjoying your life more fully, whether you talk to your GP, asthma
nurse or pharmacist!