Feeling unwell

Treating common conditions and minor ailments yourself

Common conditions and minor ailments are generally not a serious health problem for most people. These include:

  • coughs and colds
  • upset stomachs
  • indigestion
  • aches and pains

You can usually treat the symptoms of these yourself at home or with advice from a local pharmacist. Antibiotics will not generally be prescribed for these types of conditions. You can save yourself a trip to your GP by speaking to your pharmacist first.

You can find a guide to conditions, symptoms, and treatments, what you can do yourself and when to get help on the NHS website.

The Self Care Forum has produced factsheets on a range of common conditions. These provide facts about your condition and what you can expect to happen, how you can help yourself and when you should see your GP.

Treat yourself better is a day-to-day guide to cold and flu symptoms and shows you how to treat yourself with the help of your pharmacist.

Medicine cabinet essentials

Having a well-stocked medicine cabinet will make it easier for you to treat most common conditions and minor ailments. You’ll be able to treat the symptoms as soon as they appear which can help you to get better sooner.

Your medicine cabinet should include:

  • painkillers such as paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin and equivalent syrups for children
  • antihistamines for allergies and insect bites
  • antiseptic cream for bites and stings
  • indigestion remedies
  • oral rehydration salts for diarrhoea or vomiting
  • mild laxatives to help constipation
  • plasters and bandages to manage cuts and sprains
  • a thermometer to check for fever
  • tweezers and scissors

You can buy these products from local pharmacies and many supermarkets.

You should always follow the product instructions and check that all medicines are still in date. Store medicines appropriately, keep them out of the reach of children and dispose of any that are out of date.

Keep antibiotics working

Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent some types of bacterial infection. They work by killing bacteria or preventing them from spreading.

They do not work on viral infections such as colds and flu and most coughs.

Antibiotics are no longer routinely used to treat:

  • chest infections
  • ear infections in children
  • sore throats

Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them can mean they will not work for you in the future. You should take your doctor’s advice on whether you need them or not.

Find out more about the national campaign to keep antibiotics working.

Find out more about antibiotics including when and how to use them on the NHS website.