​​​​​Staying healthy with self-care​


Many common illnesses are best treated at home with rest and advice and over the counter medicines from your local pharmacist if needed - with no need to see a doctor or nurse. The self-care forum and NHS Choices both have lots of helpful advice see www.selfcareforum.org and www.nhs.uk/conditions

Over the counter medicines can include medicines for hay fever, sunscreens, creams for insect stings and bites as well pain relief medicines and cough and cold remedies. These can be bought from pharmacies and supermarkets without a prescription. They are also often cheaper this way. You can get them without an appointment or seeing a doctor.

Your pharmacist can give you advice about how to manage common illnesses and what medications to take. Most pharmacists now have a private consultation area where you can have a confidential discussion.

Common illnesses include:

  • coughs, colds or sore throats
  • cold sores
  • conjunctivitis or dry eyes
  • constipation
  • diarrhoea
  • grazes
  • hangovers
  • scabies
  • sprains
  • hay fever
  • head lice
  • indigestion and heartburn
  • infrequent migraines
  • mild cystitis
  • mouth ulcers
  • sunburn
  • stomach ache
  • warts and verrucas

Check your medicine cabinet and make sure you have the following basics to hand for when you need them:

  • Painkillers such as paracetamol
  • Antihistamines (for a mild allergy)
  • Anti-diarrhoeals (such as loperamide)
  • Oral rehydration salts
  • Indigestion treatment
  • First aid kit including plasters, bandages and a thermometer.

If your problem is more serious and needs the attention of another healthcare professional such as your GP, the pharmacist will advise you on this. Read more about pharmacy services on our pharmacies page.

Self-care is also about looking after yourself even when you are well.  This could be anything from brushing your teeth or doing some exercise. There's lots of advice available on how to stay healthy and help to make healthy choices. Read more on our healthy lifestyles page.

Why should I self-care?

  • One in every five GP visits and many visits to A&E are for common conditions which could be treated with rest and advice from a pharmacist
  • Self care helps to 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
  • Every time you see a GP it costs the NHS £36 on average, while a visit to A&E can cost up to £130
  • Self care helps ease the pressure on NHS services by managing most common conditions at home or with support from your community pharmacist
  • Last year in Merton, the NHS spent over £1 million on over the counter products that you can easily get without a prescription and £6 million on GP appointments for common conditions that could have been treated at home.
  • Reducing the amount spent by your local NHS on medicines that are available over the counter and avoidable GP appointments means the money can be used elsewhere to fund vital treatment and services.

What do I do if I need urgent help?

NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and calls are free from landlines and mobile phones. Call 111 if you urgently need medical help but it's not a life threatening situation. Find out more on our NHS 111 page.