Cheap Hay Fever Tablets

Quickly slash the cost of hay fever remedies

Hay fever is not to be sneezed at. Dust and pollen allergies can be hard on the pocket as well as the nose, so it's important you're getting the most meds for your money.

You can legally get exactly the same allergy relief for less than half the normal price. Find dirt-cheap generic equivalents of your hay fever medication, then cut the cost further with online deals.

How to find the cheapest tablets

Buying branded hay fever tablets is almost always more expensive than getting the generic equivalent. Yet if the active ingredient is the same, you're still buying the same product. When a company develops a drug, it is given unique rights to sell it for a number of years. Once the term ends, any company can make it, providing it meets the regulations.

Most over-the-counter drugs have identical medical properties regardless of brand.

The key thing is to find what the 'active' ingredient of your usual remedy is. Then buy the cheapest with the same ingredient.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) says: "Regardless of cost, and whether they are branded or generic, all medicines are made to the same standards, so you can be reassured your medicine is safe. Branded and generic products are the same if the dose of the drug and the formulation (eg, tablet or a liquid) are the same."

For more on this, read the 20+ Medicine Savings guide.

Quick warnings before you start

Once you've got the correct active ingredient, you're ready to sniff out a bargain. However, before taking any replacement tablets there are some important points to check...

  • Manufacturers can change the active ingredient, so always check the packet before taking a pill to make sure you've got the correct type.

  • While the active ingredient will be the same, if you have other allergies always check the other non-active ingredients too. Don't automatically assume they're the same in a generic product as a branded one.

  • As with most things you eat, check the use-by date on the packet before you buy. Normally, the tablets have a life span of a few years, so this is rarely a problem. But if you're buying in bulk, it's worth considering whether you'll use them in time. Online shops often sell cheaper products with a shorter shelf life so always double-check before you buy.

  • Online pharmacies require you to fill in a questionnaire detailing your condition.

    They reserve the right to refuse your order if you don't provide adequate information. All orders should be checked by a qualified pharmacist prior to despatch.

  • Since July 2015, all online pharmacies selling medicines in the UK must by law display the European common logo on every page of their website. The logo will link to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency's register of authorised online pharmacies.

    We also only include pharmacies registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), the independent regulator responsible for setting standards of practice. It routinely inspects pharmacies and can take disciplinary action against pharmacists.

    All pharmacies, including online pharmacies, must be registered with the GPhC. It has a voluntary logo scheme to help to identify registered online pharmacies based in Britain. However, because it is a voluntary scheme not all online pharmacies use the logo. The GPhC website contains information on a number of further checks you can make to see whether an online pharmacy is registered.

    We do as many checks as we can, but we're not medical experts. You need to make your own decision when buying pharmaceuticals online, and we can't take responsibility for that.

    If you know of any other reliable online pharmacies which undercut these, please report them here to let us know.

Cheap tablets: 120 for less than £3

Prices change regularly so always check before you buy, particularly at the height of the season when there are a lot of offers available. Remember this is just a guide – always check the packet of the remedy you commonly use to find the active ingredient.

Buying online won't be practical if you're in the middle of an attack, so if you're suffering right now, the high street might be your best bet. Shops often have generic and branded tablets on offer, so for the best deal always check the back of the packet and then go for the cheapest price.

Important: not all tablets are one-a-day. There are different types of drugs as we explain, but some tablets need to be taken more regularly than others so consider this when comparing cost. For example, £1 for 10 one-a-day tablets may seem more expensive than 90p for 10 tablets which you take every four hours, but the one-a-day tablets will last MUCH longer.

Prices updated 16 April 2018 from Asda.com, Boots.com, Sainsburys.co.uk, Superdrug.com, Tesco.com, Waitrose.com and Wilko.com. Prices can fluctuate and stores often have special offers, so always check before you buy 'em.

Piriteze equivalent – less than 3p a day

CETIRIZINE HYDROCHLORIDE

NHS description: Cetirizine hydrochloride is used to treat allergic conditions such as allergic rhinitis, hay fever and urticaria (an itchy lumpy rash). It is available as tablets which are taken by mouth.

Cheapest online deal we found: PharmacyFirst* 120 tablets for £2.79 all–in (delivery's free if you use the code FREEDELIVERY though you'll have to pay if ordering other non-offer items).

  • There are two types – hydrochloride and dihydrochloride – although from a medical point of view there's little difference.

    Levocetirizine (Xyzal) is a slightly rearranged third-generation version of the drug. It's known to be just as effective, though studies into whether it's actually better have proven inconclusive. Levocetirizine isn't available over the counter though, as it's a prescription-only medicine.

    Adult dosage guideline: One per day.
    Always check your individual dosage with your pharmacist.

    (Info from Chemist-4-U.)

We've included the prices below to give you an idea of how online prices compare to buying in store at big chains. However, our medicines investigation found discount stores such as Poundstretcher were often the best places for hay fever tablets, eg, when we looked we found 30 cetirizine hydrochloride tablets for £1.49.

Cheapest 30-tablet packs in store (one-a-day)

Cheapest generic Cheapest Piriteze, Zirtek or branded equivalent tablets
Asda: £1.90
Boots: £6.15
Morrisons: £2.50 
Sainsbury's: £2.50
Superdrug: £1.99
Tesco: N/A
Waitrose: N/A
Wilko: N/A
Asda: £9.99
Boots: £7.49
Morrisons: £7 
Sainsbury's: £10
Superdrug: £9.99
Tesco: £10
Waitrose: £10.10
Wilko: N/A

Clarityn equivalent – less than 3p a day

LORATADINE

NHS description: Loratadine is an antihistamine. It blocks the effects of a chemical which causes symptoms of allergy such as itching and hay fever.

Cheapest online deal we found: Chemist-4-U* 30 tablets for £3.64 all-in (69p + £2.95 delivery)Max order 12 packs. Note that buying in store can undercut this – see prices below.

Cheapest online bulk buy we found: PharmacyFirst* 180 tablets for £4.79 all–in (delivery's free if you use the code FREEDELIVERY though you'll have to pay if ordering other non-offer items).

  • Desloratadine (Neoclarityn) is a newer version of the drug. It hasn't proven any more efficient in studies, so most people won't notice a difference. Desloratadine isn't available over the counter, as it's prescription-only.

    Adult dosage guideline: One per day.
    Always check your individual dosage with your pharmacist.

    (Info from Chemist-4-U.)

We've included the prices below to give you an idea of how online prices compare to buying in Store at big chains. However, our medicines investigation found discount stores such as Savers were often the best places for hay fever tablets, eg, when we checked we found 30 loratadine tablets for £1.

Cheapest 30-tablet packs in store (one-a-day)

Cheapest generic Cheapest Clarityn tablets
Asda: £1.90
Boots: £1.99
Morrisons: £2.50
Sainsbury's: £2.50
Superdrug: £1.99
Tesco: £2.75
Waitrose: £2.95
Wilko: £1.50
Asda: £9.99 
Boots: £10.49
Morrisons: £9.18
Sainsbury's: £6
Superdrug: £9.99
Tesco: N/A
Waitrose: £9.99
Wilko: £4.50

Piriton equivalent – 112 tablets for £5

CHLORPHENAMINE

NHS description: Chlorphenamine is an antihistamine which can be used to treat many types of allergies such as hay fever, food or medicine allergies, rhinitis, urticaria or insect bites. It is also used to treat itching that is caused by chicken pox.

Cheapest online deal we found: PharmacyFirst* 28 tablets for £3.64 all-in (45p + £3.19 delivery) or Chemist-4-U* 28 tablets for £3.64 all-in (69p + £2.95 delivery).

Cheapest online bulk buy we found: PharmacyFirst* 112 tablets for £4.94 all–in (£1.75 + £3.19 delivery).

If you need even more – say if buying for the whole family – we also found 336 for £8.39 all–in from PharmacyFirst* (£5.20 + £3.19 delivery).

  • It's no worse a treatment than the rest, but studies have shown that it takes the longest time to have an effect, and it's the only antihistamine we include in this guide that causes drowsiness.

    If you're buying it, don't confuse Piriton with Piriteze; the latter's active ingredient is cetirizine hydrochloride (like Zirtek). Also, Piriton's the most likely to react with other medicines, so if you're planning to combine it with other tablets, consult a doctor first.

    Adult dosage guideline: One taken every four to six hours, with a max of six per day. Always check your individual dosage with your pharmacist.

    (Info from Chemist-4-U.)

We've included the prices below to give you an idea of how online prices compare to buying in store at big chains.

Cheapest 30-tablet packs in store (taken every four to six hours)

Cheapest generics Cheapest Piriton tablets
Boots: £2.99
Superdrug: £2.79 
Boots: £3.69
Superdrug: £3.69

Benadryl – 12 tablets for £3.50

NO GENERIC EQUIVALENT, BUT YOU CAN GET IT FOR LESS

NHS description: Benadryl contains the active ingredient acrivastine. Acrivastine belongs to a group of medicines called antihistamines which help to reduce the symptoms of allergies such as redness, itching and swelling. Pseudoephedrine (which is contained in Benadryl Plus) is a decongestant which reduces swelling inside the nose and helps ease breathing. It may cause dizziness and sleepiness.

Here, there are no generic equivalents, so it's all about getting the cheapest Benadryl in stores, if that's the one you want.

  • Patent laws mean there is currently no generic equivalent of Benadryl, which makes it one of the most expensive treatments in the long term. Be warned if buying Benadryl from the US. There, the brand name is attached to products containing diphenhydramine (aka Nytol) which may work, but will make you very drowsy.

    Different types of Benadryl can have different active ingredients, so check this on the packet of the version that works for you. UK Benadryl Plus contains pseudoephedrine, a nasal decongestant.

Cheapest 30-tablet packs in store (taken every four to six hours)

Cheapest generics Cheapest Benadryl tablets (in price order)
N/A Sainsbury's: £3.50
Wilko: £3.70 
Morrisons: £4.37 
Asda: £4.70
Tesco: £4.75
Boots: £4.79
Waitrose: £4.85 
Superdrug: £4.99

Is it cheaper to get a prescription?

How cost-effective a prescription is depends on where you live:

  • Live in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland? Here, prescriptions are free. Visit your GP to get your hay fever or allergy medication by prescription and you won't pay a penny. Try to get the longest supply you can.

  • Live in England? Most people pay for prescriptions at £8.80 a go, so it all depends how many tablets you are prescribed. You may get a month's worth for £8.80, or you may get three.

Obviously, if you don't pay for prescriptions, it'll be free, so that's the cheapest way to get tablets. Otherwise do the maths versus the cheapest equivalent above. It's also worth considering a pre-paid prescription certificate if you buy regularly.

If you or your child get free prescriptions, the little-known Minor Ailments Scheme means you may be able to get free hay fever meds at some pharmacists. It's not available everywhere, but it's worth checking if you're entitled. See the 20+ Medicine Savings guide for more help.

If you spot any cheaper deals, please report them in the Cheap Hay Fever Remedies discussion.

Quick tips to reduce symptoms & other hay fever remedies

As well as cutting the cost of medication, there are a number of other ways to keep your summer sneezes to a minimum.

How to reduce hay fever symptoms

Antihistamines can help reduce the symptoms of hay fever, but there are a few practical measures to try when the pollen count is high (thanks to Asthma UK for some of these).

  • Check the pollen forecast. Be aware of when the pollen count is likely to be high. The Met Office has a searchable pollen forecast online map.

  • Vacuum and damp dust. Use a damp cloth to dust and remove any lingering pollen spores.

  • Keep windows and doors closed. This helps keep the pollen out.

  • Smear Vaseline inside your nose. This helps stop the pollen from settling on the lining of your nose.

  • Bring washing in early. Avoid drying clothes outside if you can. Air cools and pollen descends in the evening, so bring in washing from outside before this to save it getting covered. Give it a good shake before bringing it in.

Hay fever remedies for under-12s

Children under 12 and pregnant women should take special care when choosing hay fever meds.

Kids' versions of products can cost more than the adult versions, but the same MoneySaving principles apply. Branded syrups can share the same active ingredient, often only featuring different flavourings, and generic versions may be available.

Look at the ingredients and the dosage guidelines, rather than the spiel and fancy packaging, but remember you can always ask your pharmacist if you're unsure.

Children and pregnant women who don't pay for prescriptions can also get free hay fever medicine at some pharmacies via the Minor Ailments Scheme. See the 20+ Medicine Savings guide for more help.

Eye drops and nasal sprays

While antihistamines should be enough to reduce hay fever symptoms for most, they're unlikely to totally relieve nasal congestion or streaming eyes. So it may be worth investing in a separate nasal spray, and/or eye drops.

Again, there are various types to watch out for and look out for generic equivalents. If you're unsure what to try first, consult your pharmacist.

  • Beclometasone (Beconase). This is £9.39 at Boots (180 sprays). Alternatively, an unbranded version (200 sprays) is £6.14 with delivery at Chemist-4-U*.

  • Sodium Cromoglicate Eye Drops (Opticrom/Optrex). Although you can find unbranded versions of these eye drops, the cheapest we've seen is a branded version (Optrex) for £5.40 at Asda.

Light therapy and air purifiers

For some sufferers, a couple of pieces of technology have been claimed to alleviate hay fever symptoms without using any drugs. Anecdotal feedback has generally been positive, though as ever with alternative therapies, usefulness is in the eye (or nose) of the beholder.

  • Light therapy. This is based on the idea of using red light to desensitise nasal passages in a bid to defend you from allergic reactions and reduce inflammation.

    There's a range of different models available. They can be pretty expensive at full price, retailing for as much as £30 or more, but it's possible to get them for £15-£20 on Amazon* or during sales or offer periods.

  • Air purifiers. If you struggle to sleep at night because of the pollen swirling around your bedroom, air purifiers may also be helpful.

These often mildly noisy devices work to clean the air in any room, either by filtering (HEPA-type) or ionising air molecules.

These generally cost upwards of £30, but again, it's sometimes possible to get them for about £15 via Amazon*. For more on air purifiers, see Wikipedia's air purifier entry.

For extra feedback on these, read MoneySaver Harryharp's useful forum thread.

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