What is self-care?
Self-care means keeping fit and healthy, as well as knowing how to take medicines, treat minor ailments and seek help when you need it.
If you have a long-term condition, self-care is about understanding that condition and how to live with it. Many patients make appointments to see their doctor or nurse, when they could be using a well-stocked medicines cabinet or visiting a local pharmacist to treat their symptoms – and getting the same help or advice a lot quicker.
Self-care is the very best choice you can make for treating very minor illnesses and injuries.
Why is self-care good for you?
Empowering people with the confidence and information to look after themselves when they can, and visit the GP when they need to, gives people greater control of their own health and encourages healthy behaviours that help prevent ill health in the long-term.
In many cases people can take care of their minor ailments, reducing the number of GP consultations and enabling GPs to focus on caring for higher risk patients, such as those with comorbidities (more than one condition), the very young and elderly, managing long-term conditions and providing new services.
What should you have in your medicines cabinet?
You can be prepared for most common ailments by keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home. This includes:
- Anti-diarrhoea tablets - Diarrhoea is caused by a range of things, such as food poisoning or a stomach virus, and can happen without warning. The most common anti-diarrhoeal is loperamide (sold under the names Imodium, Arret and Diasorb, among others). I t works by slowing down the action of your gut. Don't give anti-diarrhoeals 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.
- Antihistamines - These are useful for dealing with allergies and insect bites. They're also helpful if you have hay fever.
- First aid kit - This can help treat minor cuts, sprains and bruises, and reduce the risk of cuts becoming infected. It should contain the following items:
- bandages – these can support injured limbs, such as a sprained wrist, and also apply direct pressure to larger cuts before being treated in hospital
- plasters – a range of sizes, waterproof if possible
- thermometer – digital thermometers that you put in your mouth produce very accurate readings; a thermometer placed under the arm is a good way to read a baby or young child's temperature
- antiseptic – this can be used to clean cuts before they're dressed (bandaged) and most can treat a range of conditions, including insect stings, ulcers and pimples; alcohol-free antiseptic wipes are useful to clean cuts
- eyewash solution – this will help wash out grit or dirt in the eyes
- sterile dressings – larger injuries should be covered with a sterile dressing to prevent infection until treatment can be given by a health professional
- medical tape – this is used to secure dressings and can also be used to tape an injured finger to an uninjured one, creating a makeshift splint
- tweezers – for taking out splinters; if splinters are left in, they can cause discomfort and become infected
- Indigestion treatment - If you have stomach ache, heartburn or trapped wind, a simple antacid will reduce stomach acidity and bring relief
- Oral rehydration salts - Fever, diarrhoea and vomiting make us lose water and essential minerals, and can lead to dehydration
- Pain relief - such as aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen. These 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.
The Pharmacy provides advice and support to people on the management of minor illnesses and injuries. This service is targeted at people who would otherwise have gone to visit their GP for a minor illness, such as a cough or sore throat. Where appropriate, the Pharmacy may sell over-the-counter medicines to the person to help manage the illness. Pharmacy First aims to improve access and choice for people with a mild sickness, to free up GP appointments used by these patients, and to refer or signpost people to other healthcare professionals as appropriate to their condition.
Patient Information Exchange
The Patient Information Exchange (PIE) is a health information website. There are lots of health resources available to patients and health professionals, but we don’t have access to this information. This may be because the resources aren’t promoted on websites, newsletters or noticeboards. The aim of PIE is to act as a hub for health information. This includes information websites (such as, NHS choices), and information about local patient groups and health-related activities in East Lancashire.
Self care can also be an option if you have a long term illness, such as respiratory or heart conditions. East Lancashire have successfully implemented a virtual ward for some patients, where they are cared for by health professionals in their own home, instead of being admitted to hospital Virtual Wards use the same systems, staffing and daily routine of a hospital ward in the community – the difference being is that everything is virtual, there are no physical buildings and patients are cared for in their own homes. All disciplines of healthcare function together to work towards the aim and reduce delays in assessment and support by providing urgent health and social care. Case management and emergency care plans are provided and specialist services are brought in as appropriate. The ward promotes self care as it teaches patients to recognise when they need further assistance from health professionals, or if their needs are better suited to receiving care in hospital.