As the hay fever season begins people who suffer from the allergy are being encouraged to visit their local pharmacy – rather than their GP – for help and advice.
You don’t need a prescription for hay fever tablets, eye drops or nasal sprays as these items can all be easily purchased from your local pharmacy or supermarket.
The NHS in east and west Suffolk spends almost £450,000 annually on hay fever and allergy prescriptions and more than £3 million each year on prescription medicine that could be more cheaply purchased at the pharmacy.
Dr Mark Shenton, a GP in Stowmarket and chairman of NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group said: “With an estimated one in five people suffering from hay fever, the next few months could be an uncomfortable time for them, with symptoms including a runny, itchy or blocked nose, sneezing and itchy, red and watery eyes.
“As a GP I would advise most people that the pharmacy is the place to go for advice and treatment. One of the best ways to control hay fever is with antihistamines, which you can buy without prescription from the pharmacy. Start taking them now so they can get into your system. Taking antihistamines regularly is much more effective than taking them only when your symptoms are bad.
“Some people think they need to see their GP for a prescription for hay fever medicine, but that’s not the case. By going to the pharmacy you’ll be saving yourself time, freeing up GP appointments for people with more urgent needs as well as doing your bit to help the NHS save money on unnecessary prescription costs.”
Dr Christopher Browning, a GP in Long Melford and chairman of NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Make your pharmacy the first place you go for help and advice with hay fever. Many pharmacies are open long hours including evenings and weekends and you don’t need an appointment to speak with the pharmacist.
“You can help protect yourself from hay fever symptoms by wearing wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes. Taking showers and changing your clothes after being outdoors helps prevent pollen spreading around your home. Staying indoors when the pollen count is high and smearing a small amount of Vaseline inside your nose helps to prevent pollen settling on the inside of your nose.”