Bush fire season means that asthmatics have to be extra careful when it comes to being outside.
The smokey air can lead to unexpected attacks, especially if you tend to mostly suffer for exercise induced asthma.
This means you might need to buy a ventolin inhaler out of the blue, and it turns out, you don’t need a prescription.
I was diagnosed with asthma when I was kid and it took almost two decades for me to discover I didn’t need a prescription to buy an inhaler.
No doctor or pharmacy told me this until this year, when a pharmacist casually mentioned it. And it seems I’m not the only one who has been labouring under this misapprehension.
Just this week someone on Twitter reported that their partner was denied an inhaler at a pharmacy because they didn’t have a prescription on them. Not an ideal scenario when your asthma is unexpectedly flaring up due to smoke.
If this ever happens to you, it’s best to know your rights.
Ventolin is a ‘Schedule 3’ medicine, which according to Health Direct makes it a ‘pharmacy only’ medicine.
This means that it is available from a pharmacist without a prescription. Schedule 3 medicines are usually behind the counter so you’ll probably have to ask for it. You may also be asked to show your licence, similar to when you buy certain cold & flu tablets.
It’s also worth remembering that it’s up to a pharmacist’s discretion.
Speaking to a local pharmacy in Sydney, they told me that they may deny ventolin if their line of questioning reveals that someone isn’t being properly treated for asthma.
For example, using a ventolin more than four times a week without a preventer.
I mentioned that my own asthma is generally sports induced and that I don’t use a preventer. I also noted that this leads me to using my puffa four times a week for gym sessions. The pharmacy confirmed they would not deny me a ventolin in this case.
They did reiterate that pharmacies will differ though, so you may have a different experience depending on where you go. For example, this pharmacist has never worked anywhere that requires a licence to buy ventolin without a prescription.
If you’re someone who uses a Turbuhaler (the twist bottom ones) you will need a prescription as it is categorised as a Schedule 4 ‘prescription only’ medicine.
Hopefully this saves some people from an unnecessary doctor appointment in the future.