Preparing for winter with PH
There’s plenty you can do to prepare for both the colder climate and seasonal challenges, as Consultant Pharmacist in PH Neil Hamilton explains…
Posted 17th October 2022
Neil Hamilton is a Consultant Pharmacist at the Sheffield Pulmonary Vascular Disease Unit. He has many years of experience in the field of PH, both in his clinical role and through his long-standing association with the PHA UK.
I thought that I’d take this opportunity to summarise the most important considerations to keep you well over the coming months.
Cold and flu remedies
For anyone with PH unfortunate enough to come down with a nasty cold, or even flu, the local pharmacy should also be your first stop for some helpful advice.
Not only is your pharmacist available without an appointment, but pharmacies are usually open longer hours than a GP surgery, so should be much more accessible.
The pharmacist will be able to advise you which remedies will be best for you. In terms of PH-specific advice, I would advise against patients with PH taking decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (found in Sudafed and other products) as this constricts blood vessels.
I also advise to avoid anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen. Whilst one-off doses may be harmless, these can cause problems with your kidneys and possibly worsen breathlessness.
Whenever you seek advice over the pharmacy counter, it is important that you take along an up-to-date list of current prescribed medicines so that the pharmacist can avoid any potential interactions.
A new COVID-19 vaccine has been developed, which covers two strains of the virus (the original, plus Omicron). This vaccine is currently being rolled out and I would recommend you have it as soon as you can.
COVID infections and hospital admissions are on the increase, so this is the best way of protecting yourself. In our hospital (The Royal Hallamshire, in Sheffield), the staff are being offered the flu vaccine too.
Not many people caught flu last winter, so there isn’t so much natural immunity in the population this time around. In addition, we can all socialise without restrictions this winter, so vaccines will be vital in protecting our loved ones and us.
Making sure everyone who is eligible has the flu vaccine as well as the COVID booster has become a priority for the NHS and there are national advertising campaigns reminding everyone, with very good reason.
It is safe to have these together if you are offered them at the same time, and you may be able to receive vaccines at your local pharmacy if that is more accessible to you than a clinic.
Homecare medication deliveries
Although the homecare providers involved in PH do a great job for the vast majority of deliveries, there are occasional glitches, as with any service.
We are also seeing occasional medicine shortages across the board (not just PH medication). In order to protect yourself from potentially running out, please take the time to do regular ‘stock checks’, so that you can place orders, request repeat prescriptions, or arrange deliveries, in plenty of time.
My advice is to always carry approximately two weeks of additional supply as a buffer. That way if there is any problem, you are much less likely to run out. If you are told of an issue with your repeat medication, have a chat with your local pharmacist who can advise as to the likely length of problems and, if necessary, discuss suitable alternatives.
If you have any queries regarding your stock levels or delivery dates, your PH centre is unlikely to have the information you need, so the best people to contact are the delivery companies directly. You may have their number from a welcome pack, but here is a reminder:
- Sciensus (formerly known as Healthcare at Home) – 0333 103 9499
- Polar Speed – 0800 783 3178 (+ option 3)
- Pharmaxo – 01225 302188 (+ option 1)
- Healthnet – 0800 083 3060
- Lloyds Pharmacy Clinical Homecare – 0800 090 2056
Some of you will need to post blood boxes to your PH centre because you are prescribed ambrisentan, macitentan or bosentan. As I write this in the autumn of 2022, the strikes at Royal Mail are already impacting some samples being sent in, and there are further strikes planned in November and December.
It is much better that your appointment is rearranged for a later date when there is not a strike, than for the samples to arrive at the lab unsuitable for testing.
As always, please arrange your bloods to be taken on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday so they are not held up over a weekend, but also think about the strike dates so that hopefully your sample is not held up. The strikes may also affect clinic letters, appointment dates and other correspondence, so please be patient.
Winter is often a busy time of year and there is a lot going on, so hopefully these suggestions may help you through it.