Self-care is the best choice to treat minor illnesses, ailments and injuries. A range of common illnesses can be treated with over the counter medicines and plenty of rest.
What is self care?
Self care is about looking after yourself in a healthy way. It can be anything from brushing your teeth, doing some exercise, managing common conditions (like headaches, colds and flu) or living with a long-term health problem such as asthma or diabetes.
Why self care?
- Self care is the best choice to treat minor illnesses, ailments and injuries. A range of common illnesses can be treated at home simply with over the counter medicines and plenty of rest.
- Self care is important throughout our lives to prevent ill health and treat minor conditions, which can be managed at home by yourself or with support from your community pharmacy.
Self care for common conditions
Did you know that one in five GP visits are for common conditions, such as backache, headache or a cough?
For most people, these common conditions are not serious health problems – you just want to know how to relieve it and you want a treatment that acts fast. You also want to know how long you're going to suffer or what you should do if your symptoms change.
The good news is that self care can help you manage most of these problems. It may mean you don't have to spend time waiting to see your GP and can get on with tackling your symptoms. Self care for common conditions can also help free up some of your GP's time, making it easier to get an appointment when you have a more serious condition.
Did you know?
- One in every five GP visits are for common conditions, such as backache, headache or a cough.
- Many patients visit their GP or Accident and Emergency department with common conditions, which could have been treated with advice from their pharmacist.
- Every time you see a GP it costs the NHS £43 on average and a visit to Accident and Emergency can cost up to £112.
- Last year in Shropshire, the NHS spent over £2 million on Over the Counter products, which could have been obtained from a pharmacy.
How self care helps your local NHS
Many common conditions can be treated at home with the support of your local pharmacy if needed. Over the counter products for self care include pain relief and cough and cold remedies. These items can be bought from pharmacies, supermarkets, and discount stores without a prescription. You can get them without an appointment or seeing a doctor. They are also often cheaper this way.
- You will help ease the pressure on NHS services for common conditions that could be managed at home.
- You can help free up some of your GP or nurse's time, making it easier to get an appointment when you have a more serious or complex condition.
- You will help to reduce the amount spent by your local NHS on medicines that are available over the counter.
- Your doctor may not give you a prescription, but may instead advise you to buy an appropriate treatment from your local pharmacy.
Stock up your medicine cabinet
Be prepared for most common ailments by keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home. Find out what should be included here. Keep your first aid kit stocked with:
- plasters, triangular bandage and two sterile eye dressings
- small, medium and large sterile gauze dressings
- safety pins
- disposable sterile gloves
- tweezers, scissors and sticky tape
- alcohol-free cleansing cleansing wipes
- thermometer, preferably digital
- skin rash cream such as hydrocortisone or calendula
- cream or spray to relieve insect bites and stings and antiseptic cream
- painkillers such as paracetamol (or infant paracetamol for children), aspirin (not to be given to children under 16) or ibuprofen cough medicine
- Distilled water, for cleaning wounds and as an eye bath
Cough and flu remedies are good at relieving symptoms and can help you feel better. Speak to your pharmacist who can recommend the best remedy for you and your family.
With any medicine you have at home, be careful and make sure they are safely stored according to their labels and are within their use-by dates.
Keep your medicines safe from little ones at all times by locking your medical cabinet. Some medicines can be harmful to children so be aware of the doses you are giving.
Speak to your local pharmacist to get advice on the best treatment for your symptoms. Click here to find out what your pharmacist can help you with.
Find out more about self care for common conditions
- Sore throats, coughs, colds and nasal congestion
- Flu (influenza)
- Indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux
- Head lice and nits
- Sunburn, sunscreen and sun safety
- Hay fever
Or alternatively, find out more about how you can self care at home from the Self Care Forum here.
You can also find information on common conditions by visiting the NHS website for a Health A-Z by clicking here.
Ask your pharmacist first for advice
Many common conditions can be treated at home, with the support of your local pharmacist if needed. As soon as you become concerned about your condition or symptoms, initially contact your local pharmacist for advice because:
- Pharmacists are qualified health professionals and have the knowledge and skills to help and advise you on the best course of action. You may not need to see a doctor, but can get helpful advice or buy a treatment for your condition. Saving you time and helping you feel better quicker.
- Pharmacies are accessible and convenient as many of them are open late nights and weekends. They can be found in local communities, on the high street, in some supermarkets, and in shopping centres.
- There is no need for an appointment to speak to the pharmacist; just pop in any time and they will be happy to help you. If you can’t get to your local pharmacy yourself, ask someone to go for you or call your local pharmacy. Details of your local pharmacy and their opening times can be found here: nhs.uk/chemist
111 is the NHS non-emergency number. Trained advisers at NHS 111 can direct you to the right service for your needs.
NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and calls are free from landlines or mobile phones.
Call NHS 111 and speak to a fully trained adviser if you need urgent medical help or advice but it’s not a life threatening situation.
Supporting information and resources
Information and resources to help explain changes to prescribing of over the counter medicines, and to help patients make informed choices and decisions about choosing self-care:
- Patient Information Leaflet: Self-care with Over the Counter Medication
- Video: Looking after you and your family - how ready are you? (Subtitled version)
- National resources from NHS England: Posters and leaflets