Self care

Did you know that 10 of the most common minor illnesses seen by GPs can often be treated by you at home?

Click on the conditions below and find out the most effect ways to treat things like heartburn and a blocked nose at home, and save yourself a trip to the GP Surgery. This will also help free up time for the GPs to see patients with more serious health problems.

  1. Back pain
  2. Dermatitis
  3. Heartburn and indigestion
  4. Nasal congestion (blocked nose)
  5. Constipation
  6. Migraines
  7. Coughs
  8. Acne
  9. Sprains and strains
  10. Headaches

Visit the NHS website to access the above information and self-help tips.


Each year 25% of the population visit their GP for a respiratory tract infection (eg sinus, throat or chest infection). These are usually caused by viruses.

For patients who are otherwise healthy, antibiotics are not necessary for viral infections.

These infections will normally clear up by looking after yourself at home with rest, plenty of fluids and paracetamol.

The following list gives you an idea of how long these common illnesses usually last:

  • Middle ear infections typically last 4 days
  • A sore throat typically lasts 7 days
  • A common cold typically lasts 10 days
  • Sinusitis typically lasts 18 days
  • Cough/bronchitis typically lasts 21 days

Colds, most coughs, sinusitis, ear infections, sore throat, and other infections often get better without antibiotics, as your body can usually fight these infections on its own.

Antibiotics only work for infections caused by bacteria.

If you take antibiotics when you don’t need them, it allows bacteria to build up resistance. This means, they’re less likely to work in the future, when you really might need them.

Antibiotics can cause side effects such as rashes, thrush, stomach pains, diarrhoea, reactions to sunlight, other symptoms, or being sick if you drink alcohol with metronidazole.

Medicine cabinet

You can treat many minor ailments such as colds, coughs and indigestion by keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home. These can all be purchased at most pharmacies or even supermarkets.

We suggest you keep the following:

  • Paracetamol and aspirin (children under 16 and people with asthma should not take aspirin)
  • Mild laxatives
  • Anti-diarrhoeal medicines
  • Rehydration mixture
  • Indigestion remedy (for example, antacids like Gaviscon or Rennies)
  • Travel sickness tablets
  • Sunscreen – SPF15 or higher
  • Sunburn treatment (for example, calamine)
  • Tweezers and sharp scissors
  • A thermometer
  • A selection of plasters, non-absorbent cotton wool, elastic bandages and dressings


  • Keep the medicine chest in a secure, locked place out of reach of small children
  • Always read the instructions and use the suggested dose
  • Watch expiry dates – don’t keep or use medicines past their sell-by date
  • Take all unwanted and out-of-date medicines back to a pharmacy

Over the counter medication

In the last year, NHS England have advised GPs to change the way they prescribe medication, which focuses around ‘over the counter’ medication which can be bought at a pharmacy or supermarket, to treat minor illnesses.  There are 33 different minor illnesses that the NHS recommend GP’s stop prescribing medication for (with some exceptions like patients with long term, complex health needs).

For further information, please click here.


Other NHS services

As well as our practice, there are many other local NHS services you can contact for health advice, information or treatment.

You can ask your local pharmacist about lots of health issues, including when to visit your GP. And there’s no need for an appointment.

Visit our Who should I see page for more information.

Useful numbers

Wycombe Hospital: 01494 526161

Amersham Hospital: 01494 434411

Stoke Mandeville Hospital: 01296 315000

Chiltern Hospital: 01494 890890

Shelburne Hospital: 01494 888700

NHS: 111

Cruse Bereavement Care: 01494 511117

Dial-a-Ride: 01494 441818

British Red Cross (medical equipment loans): 01494 521512

Relate: 01494 791180

Citizens Advice Bureau: 0870 126 4045

Samaritans: 0845 790 9090

Patients Advice Liaison Service: 0800 7838 179

Date published: 8th October, 2014
Date last updated: 22nd July, 2021