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Self care - guidance for patients

Male patient in waiting room reading leaflet

Many of us will have a cold, sore throat or other minor illness at some point during the winter and some of us will have flu.

If your symptoms persist, or you are at all unsure, always seek advice from your GP, nurse or pharmacist.

The most common winter illnesses will usually get better without the need to see a doctor.

Here are some tips to help you keep well and self care through the winter months and many more helpful resources below:


1. Treat yourself at home

Colds, flu and most sore throats do not need antibiotics and you can treat your symptoms at home. Make sure you get lots of rest, drink plenty of water and take pain relievers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, if you need them.

Find out what are the essential medicines your medicine cabinet should contain

How to stay well this winter


2. Order repeat prescriptions and book your flu jab in good time

If you take regular medication make sure you order your repeat prescriptions from your GP surgery in good time.

And if you're eligible for a flu jab - it is available free from your GP if you are over 65, pregnant or have a long-term condition such as heart failure, diabetes or respiratory disease - make an appointment at your surgery.

Children aged two and three can have the vaccine as a nasal spray.

Who should have the flu vaccination and why?


3. Speak to your pharmacist

Your local pharmacy can recognise many common health complaints. They can give advice or, where appropriate, medicines to help you manage the symptoms.

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Check out #SelfCareWeek and #SelfCareForLife for more helpful tips

If your problem is more serious or you need medical advice, your pharmacist will advise you to contact your GP.

You can also ask your pharmacist what over the counter remedies to keep in your medicine cabinet at home to help get you and your family through the winter months.

Can the pharmacist help with your symptoms?

Find your local pharmacy


4. Check online for information and advice

There is lots of information on the NHS websites about how to keep well, check your symptoms or use self-care to stay healthy and treat common winter illnesses such as colds, sore throats and flu.

Check your health condition and know what to do next

Visit NHS England
Visit NHS Northern Ireland
Visit Scotland
Visit Wales


Resources and blogs

  • Self care resources for patients

    Self care does not mean that you need to manage on your own. You can get advice on how to self care, including factsheets to help you manage some common ailments, from the Self Care Forum website.

    Visit the Self Care Forum

    Read the Self Care Forum's factsheets

    The BMA's Patient Liaison Group (PLG) has produced a Q&A, giving patients a basic introduction to self care, including what it involves, the risks and benefits, and where it can be accessed.

    Download the PLG Q&A

  • Latest blogs

    Embracing self care for life - Amanda Cool, chair of the BMA patient liaison committee, blogs for the Department of Health

    Further reading

    Support self care for patients, says BMA

  • GPs empowering patients

    Find information and guidance to guide new thinking and encourage patients to consider a self-care strategy.

    Visit Quality First

  • Patient portal

    As a patient, you can play an important role in managing your health and minor ailments to live a better, healthier, more independent life. The Patient portal from the Self Care Forum contains lots of useful advice on how you can achieve this.

    Visit the Patient portal