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Health Matters - Seven Steps to Self Care

Health Matters - Seven Steps to Self Care
23 November 2017

Dr Julia Huddart, clinical lead for urgent care at NHS Eastern Cheshire CCG

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, said that death and taxes were the two certainties in life. Here in damp, cloudy England, we can add coughs, colds and sore throats to the list.

Fortunately, common ailments tend to be a short-lived misery for most of us. But normally minor, self-limiting illnesses can be far more worrying for people with long-term conditions like heart failure. And if we throw flu into the mix, the consequences can be grave. For that reason, the NHS offers a free flu jab every year to people in the following at-risk groups:

  • people aged 65 years or over   
  • pregnant women
  • two and three-year-old children plus children in reception class and years one to four
  • people with long-term medical conditions 
  • residents of a care home or other long-stay care facility 
  • people receiving a carer's allowance, or who are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill. 

Children are given a nasal spray while everyone else has an injection. If you’re in a high-risk group and haven’t yet had your vaccine, call your GP practice to make an appointment or attend one of the flu clinics that your practice will be advertising. 

Thankfully, there’s rarely any need for normally healthy people to see their GP with a common, self-limiting condition or even flu. Instead, you should try our seven steps to self-care.

  1. Know where to get advice - make your local community pharmacy your first point of contact.
  2. Be prepared and stock up on over-the-counter medicines – including allergy medicines; simple pain killers; and medication for sore throats, coughs and colds.
  3. If you want further advice, speak to your local community pharmacist - they can give advice on minor conditions and recommend over-the-counter medications.
  4. Always look for the lowest cost version of the medication - medicines sold by their ingredient name will be less costly but just as effective as a branded product.
  5. Know how long it can take for minor conditions to clear up - sore throat = 7 days, common cold = 10 days, sinusitis = 18 days, cough or bronchitis = 21 days.
  6. Contact your GP surgery if your symptoms aren’t clearing up or are getting worse - don’t forget to tell them everything you have already tried for your symptoms.
  7. Some pharmacies provide a minor ailments service - these pharmacies can supply medicines for certain conditions on the NHS. This is the Think Pharmacy Minor Ailments service and you can ask to speak privately in a consulting room if you’d rather not be overheard. To find out more, visit and search for “Think Pharmacy”.