Self care

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Self care is the best choice to treat very minor illnesses, ailments and injuries. A range of common illnesses and complaints such as coughs, colds, sore throats, upset stomachs and aches and pains can be treated with a well-stocked medicine cabinet and plenty of rest.

Stock up on self care essentials


Useful for dealing with allergies and insect bites. They’re also helpful if you have hay fever.

Antihistamines can come in the form of creams that you apply to the skin (topical antihistamine) or tablets that you swallow (oral antihistamine). Creams soothe insect stings and bites and rashes and itching from stinging nettles. Tablets and syrups help to control rashes, hay fever symptoms and calm minor allergic reactions to food. They can also help to calm itchiness during chickenpox.

Some antihistamines may cause drowsiness. Ask your pharmacist as they may have antihistamines that don’t cause drowsiness.

Indigestion treatment

If you have an upset stomach, heartburn or trapped wind, a simple antacid will reduce stomach acidity and bring relief. Antacids come as chewable tablets, or tablets that dissolve in water, or in liquid form.

Oral rehydration salts

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. But they don’t fight the underlying cause of your illness, such as a virus or bacteria. Rehydration salts, available at your local pharmacy, are an easy way to take in minerals and fluid, and can help with your recovery.

Pain relief

Painkillers such as aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen are highly effective at relieving most minor aches and pains, such as headaches and menstrual pain. Aspirin must not be given to children under 16. These medicines also help with some minor ailments by reducing aches and pains and high temperatures. These medicines also help to reduce the inflammation in arthritis and sprains.


Keep a lotion of at least factor 15. Even brief exposure to the sun can cause sunburn and increase your risk of skin cancer. Ensure that your sunscreen provides UVA protection. You can protect yourself further against the sun by wearing a hat and sunglasses, and by avoiding the sun during the hottest part of the day, between 11am and 3pm.

Self care with your first aid kit

A well-prepared first aid kit can help to treat minor cuts, sprains and bruises. It can also help reduce the risk of cuts becoming infected.


Can be used to clean cuts before they’re dressed (bandaged). Most can treat a range of conditions, including insect stings, ulcers and pimples. Alcohol-free antiseptic wipes are useful to clean cuts.


Can support injured limbs, such as fractures or sprains. They also apply direct pressure to larger cuts before getting them treated in hospital.

Eyewash solution

Will help to wash out grit or dirt in the eyes.

Medical tape

Can be used to secure dressings. It can also be used to tape an injured finger to an uninjured one, creating a makeshift splint.


Have a range of sizes and stock-up on waterproof plasters if possible.

Sterile dressings

Should be used to cover larger injuries to prevent infection until treatment can be given by a health professional.


Get one that you put in your mouth produce very accurate readings. A digital thermometer is best for this. A thermometer placed under the arm is a good way to read a baby’s temperature.


For taking out splinters. If splinters are left in, they can cause discomfort and become infected.

How to treat flu yourself

If you have flu, there are some things you can do to help get better more quickly.


  • Rest and Sleep
  • Keep warm
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains
  • drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (your pee should be light yellow or clear

A pharmacist can help with flu

A pharmacist can give treatment advice and recommend flu remedies.

Do not take paracetamol and flu remedies that contain paracetamol at the same time as it’s easy to take more than the recommended dose.

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GPs do not recommend antibiotics for flu because they will not relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery.

Non-urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

You or your child have symptoms of flu and:

  • you’re worried about your baby’s or child’s symptoms
  • you’re 65 or over
  • you’re pregnant
  • you have a long-term medical condition – for example, diabetes or a condition that affects your heart, lungs, kidneys, brain or nerves
  • you have a weakened immune system – for example, because of chemotherapy or HIV
  • you’re symptoms do not improve after 7 days

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

Non-urgent advice: Call 999 or go to A&E if you:

  • get sudden chest pain
  • have difficulty breathing
  • start coughing up a lot of blood

How to self care if you have diarrhoea and vomiting

Diarrhoea is caused by a range of things, such as food poisoning or a stomach virus, and can happen without warning. Anti-diarrheal remedies can quickly control the symptoms of diarrhoea. Although they don’t deal with the underlying cause.

If you are still not feeling well after a few days or if symptoms worsen, contact NHS 111.

Stop the spread of norovirus

  • Do not book an appointment or visit a hospital as the virus may be contagious.
  • Treat yourself at home with an essential kit while the virus runs its course. Get advice for treating norovirus.

Treating children under 12

Don’t give anti-diarrheal remedies to children under 12 because they may have undesirable side effects. Speak to your GP or pharmacist for advice about a child with these symptoms.

Self care advice videos

How to self care for itchy eyes caused by hay fever
How to self care for hives
How to self care for insect bites

Page last reviewed: 27 January, 2023

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