It can be tempting to pick up the phone to your GP as soon as a cold or cough sets in, but the truth is, most common colds can be treated effectively at home, with some help from your pharmacist. Over the winter period, it’s important that we all do our bit to ease the strain on our GPs and A&E departments over the busy Christmas period and become more aware of self-care. Your local pharmacy will boast a wealth of knowledge to help you treat your cold at home, allowing you to get better quickly.


Why self-care is important this winter

This year, the NHS has been paying particular attention to self-care, in a bid to encourage people to start looking after their own health. The strain on the NHS has become an increasing concern in recent years, and it’s important that people are aware of alternative services available, like pharmacies, which are able to offer treatment advice about common ailments such as colds. Winter is a critical time for the NHS, with many patients being admitted for serious illnesses, therefore it’s important that people stay away from their doctors or hospitals unless absolutely crucial.

Another argument for self-care comes from the increasing risk of antibiotic resistance. Many of us think requesting a prescription for antibiotics to deal with colds and flu is ok, but the truth is that these common illnesses can easily be treated with other medication which is easily available from our local pharmacy. Being reliant on antibiotics to treat minor illnesses could limit their effectiveness later in life when they could be needed for more serious conditions. More importantly, antibiotics won’t do much to alleviate your cold and flu symptoms and you’d be much better off seeking advice about specialist medications from your pharmacist.


What to ask your pharmacist

Your pharmacist will be seeing people come and go with cold and flu symptoms every day, and are able to recommend the best medication to help you treat your symptoms at home. In order to get the right advice and medication, you should describe your symptoms to the pharmacist as well as any other symptoms you may have felt over the previous few days. Whether you have a dry cough, a chesty cough, congested and blocked sinuses or head cold symptoms, they will be able to advise on the right medication to take, when to take it and provide other advice on keeping well. You should advise your pharmacist of any other medication you are taking, or any other ongoing conditions so they provide the right medication for your needs.

As Christmas approaches, it’s important to look after your health and wellbeing, and one way in which you can do this is by stocking up on cold medication in advance. Most pharmacies will be closed over Christmas and the various bank holidays, but you may be able to pick up essential items in the supermarket or high street pharmacy stores such as Boots and Superdrug.

Your pharmacist is a great resource for caring for common conditions at home in addition to treating cold symptoms. If your condition isn’t serious, seek advice from your local pharmacy before you contact your doctor. For more information on how to self-care with the help of a pharmacist, Treat Yourself Better, an initiative to help promote the services of pharmacists across the UK has plenty of good resources, as well as a symptom checker to help you identify where a pharmacist can help. The more we can learn about treating ourselves, the more we can do to ease the pressure on our health services.