NHS Self Care

Self care is about looking after yourself in a healthy way​

Many common conditions can be treated at home with the support of your local pharmacy if needed. Over the counter products for self care are things like pain relief, hay fever medication and cough and cold remedies. These items can be bought from pharmacies and supermarkets without a prescription.

Why should I self care?

You can manage most common conditions at home with support from community pharmacists, without the need to see your GP.

You will help ease the pressure on NHS services if you can manage the condition 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 and release resource to fund other health conditions and treatments.

How can I self care?

Many common conditions can be treated at home with the support of your local pharmacy if needed. Over the counter products for self-care are things like pain relief, hay fever medication and cough and cold remedies. These items 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. Download the leaflet or visit www.nhs.uk for more advice on how to self-care.

Keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home can help you treat many minor ailments. Colds, coughs, indigestion and many other minor complaints can all be treated with medicines that are available over the counter.

Your pharmacist can advise on what you might find useful to keep in your medicine cabinet. Always follow the instructions on the medicine label and consult your doctor if the illness continues or becomes more severe.

Self Care Leaflet

Self Help Guides

Self help guides, written by clinical psychologists with contributions from service users and healthcare staff from Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust are available to download in several formats (including A4, A5, large print and easy read).

You can also listen to the guides, as well as download MP3 audio copies of the guides by clicking the relevant leaflet in the bookcase. Translated versions of the guides and sign language videos of the guides are available from the menu at the top of the bookcase.

The audio guides have been developed in conjunction with Middlesbrough Hearts and Minds.

Please feel free to download them for your own use. We hope they will be helpful to you but if your problem does not improve please make sure to seek further help.

NHS Self Care Guides

Topics include:

  • Abuse
  • Alcohol and you
  • Anxiety
  • Bereavement
  • Controlling Anger
  • Depression and Low Mood
  • Domestic Violence
  • Eating Disorders
  • Food for thought
  • Health Anxiety
  • Hearing Voices and Disturbing Beliefs
  • Obsessions and Compulsions
  • Panic
  • Post Traumatic Stress
  • Postnatal Depression
  • Self Harm
  • Social Anxiety
  • Sleeping Problems
  • Stress
  • Prisoner Anxiety
  • Prisoner Depression and Low Mood
  • Prisoner Post Traumatic Stress
  • Depression and low mood: A guide for partners

A well stocked medicine cabinet


Following NHS guidance, GP surgeries in this area are asked to not routinely prescribe over-the-counter medication.

Looking after yourself when you’re feeling under the weather with a minor illness is easy if you already have a well-stocked medicine cabinet.

You can get advice and purchase medicines at little cost from community pharmacies rather than getting a prescription. Some medicines are also available from supermarkets and other shops.

Why not set up your own home medicine cabinet so that you have things on hand when you need them.

Remember to always keep to the dosage intructions and make sure all medicines are in date – for more information see www.bnssgccg.nhs.uk/pharmacyfirst

Online resources for self help guidance

There are plenty of resources available online that will help you with many minor illnesses. Click on the logos (below) to be taken to the main resources providing helpful guidance and useful information on how you can help yourself, or go to the Health Information section of this website for additional support and information. Our online resources page also lists many other useful web tools and apps.

Other Online Services

There are a number of ways to access self-help online, with guidance on what to do if you have a minor illness or injury. The links below provide plenty of information on how you can help yourself. In addition, the Health Information section of our website can signpost you to other support services.

Frequently asked questions

You may be surprised that you have not been given a prescription for an antibiotic when you have been told “you have an infection”. This is because many infections are caused by viruses. Antibiotics kill bacteria but have no effect on viruses. Viruses cause most infections of the nose, throat, ears and chest. Stomach upsets (diarrhoea and vomiting) as well as the flu are also viral infections. Our own immune system gets rid of these infections, antibiotics have no effect. There are also good reasons to not use antibiotics when they are not needed; antibiotics may cause side effects such as diarrhoea, rashes, feeling sick, etc. These may develop on top of any other symptoms from the virus infection. In the past, overuse of antibiotics when they have not been necessary has led to some bacteria becoming resistant to treatment. This means that they are not as effective when they are really needed. Antibiotics do not speed up recovery of most nose, throat, ear, chest, stomach and flu illnesses.

Viruses can go on for several days and make you feel unwell. We can’t give anything to get rid of the infection but you can use things to ease the symptoms such as paracetamol or aspirin to ease any aches, pains, headaches and reduce fever. Aspirin must not be given to children under 12. Paracetamol liquid such as Calpol and Disprol are best for children. Also having a lot to drink prevents mild dehydration. This may develop if there is a fever and can cause a headache and feeling of tiredness (common with virus infections) much worse. Do not wrap up but try to cool down if you have a fever. This is particularly important in young children. Take the clothes off young children if they have a fever and give paracetamol (Calpol). It is quite safe and a good idea for children to get some fresh air. Do not over wrap them when you take them out, just put on their normal outside clothing. You can also use the technique of ‘tepid sponging’- placing the child in a bath of luke warm (NOT COLD) water to help bring the temperature down. Your pharmacist is also always a good source of advice.

Most virus infections clear without complications. Occasionally a virus infection may develop into a more serious condition. It is best to see a doctor to review the situation if the illness appears to change, becomes worse or if you are worried about any new symptoms.

For some very serious conditions such as severe bleeding, chest pain suggesting a heart attack, or severe shortness of breath, it may be more sensible to dial 999 and ask for an ambulance. The crew on board the ambulance provide emergency care as well as rapid transport to hospital. This is often the quickest lifesaving treatment. In cases of injury, where a broken bone is suspected or stitches may be needed, going straight to the hospital often makes more sense than calling your family doctor, who may not have the facilities to deal with this kind of problem.

Many common illnesses (coughs, colds, sore throats, ear-ache and upset stomachs) may be eased by a simple home remedy or medicine such as a painkiller or other medicine easily obtained from your chemist, who will be happy to advise you. Remember the quick and easy way of getting medical advice is to call NHS 111 on 111.