Self care

Self-care means keeping fit and healthy, as well as knowing how to take medicines, treat minor ailments and seek help when you need it. If you have a long-term condition, self-care is about understanding that condition and how to live with it.

What is self care?

Self care is often the best way to treat minor illnesses and injuries. A large range of common illnesses (such as colds, sore throat, coughs, sinusitis or earache) and injuries (such as blisters, minor cuts, grazes) can be treated at home simply with over-the-counter medicines and plenty of rest.

The best thing to do is:

  • rest
  • drink plenty of fluids
  • have at least one hot meal a day to keep your energy levels up
  • talk to your pharmacist for advice on getting any pain relief you need such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.

Most people are very capable of looking after themselves, and most of the time self-treating is okay when it’s safe and you know where and when to seek further help if needed.

If you are unwell, remember to make the most of the range of NHS services available to you and choose the right health service for your health needs, check out the NHS service finder.


  • Accident and Emergency (A&E) provides vital care for life threatening emergencies, such as loss of consciousness, suspected heart attacks, breathing difficulties, or severe bleeding that cannot be stopped. A&E is not an alternative to a GP appointment.
  • Less severe injuries can be treated in urgent care centres or minor injuries units.
  • If your GP is closed you can go to or call 111, which will direct you to the best local service for treatment.
  • NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and could save you a lengthy wait at A&E.

Information can be found on NHS website about how everyone can use self-care to improve their health and wellbeing. A fact sheet on self-care can also be found on the Self Care Forum.

Keep a well stocked medicines cabinet at home

Things to have in your medicine cabinet are:

  • Paracetamol or Ibuprofen
    • effective at relieving most minor aches and pains such as headaches period pain, inflammation in arthritis and sprains
  • Oral rehydration solution
    • fever, diarrhoea and vomiting make us lose water and essential minerals, and can lead to dehydration. If you have these symptoms and can't continue your normal diet, oral rehydration salts can help to restore your body's natural balance of minerals and fluid and relieve discomfort and tiredness. They don't fight the underlying cause of your illness, such as a virus or bacteria.
  • Antacids (comes in chewable tablets, or tablets that dissolve in water, or in liquid form)
    • we normally over indulge during the festive period and this can bring stomach ache, heartburn or trapped wind. A simple antacid will reduce stomach acidity and bring relief.
  • First-aid kit
    • These are some of the main items that should be in your first aid kit. If you have small children - you should keep a thermometer and children's paracetamol handy, and take with you if you take trips or breaks away.
      • Bandages
      • Plasters
      • Thermometer
      • Antiseptic Eyewash solution
      • Sterile dressings
      • Medical tape
      • Tweezers

If you have any queries, your local pharmacist can advise you further on which medicines you should have in your cabinet.

Further information

The resources below have lots more information on which illnesses and injuries can be safely managed at home, how to do it and what signs to look out for that tell you it's time to get help from NHS services in your area or at hospital in an emergency.

Follow the links to find the self-care information you need.