There's A Hay Fever Tablet Shortage, But Don't Panic

·3-min read
(Photo: ProfessionalStudioImages via Getty Images)
(Photo: ProfessionalStudioImages via Getty Images)

(Photo: ProfessionalStudioImages via Getty Images)

Some hay fever medicines are in short supply across the UK, which sounds like a nightmare scenario for those of us prone to itchy eyes, scratchy throats and headaches this time of year.

But don’t panic, there are other medications available. You might just struggle to get your hands on meds containing a key ingredient.

Stocks of chlorphenamine maleate, the active ingredient in brands such as Piriton, have been affected, although other hay fever medicines are available.

A spokesperson for the pharmacy chain Boots said only four out of 90 hay fever products were affected and there was good availability of other hay fever items.

“There are a very small number of lines that are currently out of stock due to a current, industry-wide shortage of the active ingredient chlorphenamine maleate,” they said. “However, we are expecting this to be resolved soon and new deliveries are expected in the coming weeks.”

What alternative hay fever meds are available?

Other hay fever medicines such as Piriteze use cetirizine hydrochloride and are still in plentiful supply.

Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Claire Anderson said: “Chlorphenamine maleate is just one component of a few hay fever tablets, including Piriton, which is not a first line choice for treating hay fever for adults as it is more likely to make patients drowsy.

“Other medication using cetirizine hydrochloride or loratadine is still available widely in pharmacies across the country, and fexofenadine is also now available on general sale at pharmacies this year for the first time, so patients actually have more options than ever to treat their hay fever symptoms.”

Why is there a shortage of chlorphenamine maleate?

“Medicines shortages are not a new problem, and is something pharmacists and pharmacy teams have to manage and deal with on a daily basis, and have done for a long time,” Anderson explained.

“This can be for a multitude of reasons, including manufacturing issues, global demand or disruption with the supply chain. Availability of certain medicines fluctuates, and it is important to ask your pharmacist for alternatives.”

You might have also read news that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is currently being hit by supply shortages across the UK. While HRT is usually prescribed by a doctor, many hay fever medications are available over the counter.

“GPs, pharmacists and patient groups have called for pharmacists to be able to make minor changes to a prescription when something is out of stock – this should be considered as part of a package of measures to address future medicines supplies,” Anderson added.

What should you do if you can’t access your usual medication?

If your go-to hay fever medication is out of stock, speak to your pharmacist about which alternatives may be suitable for you. The NHS also recommends the following tips for reducing the impact of hay fever symptoms:

  • Put Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen

  • Wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes

  • Shower and change your clothes after you have been outside to wash pollen off

  • Stay indoors whenever possible

  • Keep windows and doors shut as much as possible

  • Vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth

  • Buy a pollen filter for the air vents in your car and a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter

  • Try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if you have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to do your normal activities.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.


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