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What is self-care?

by Dr Alison Harvey, GP at Chillington Health Centre

Self-care is the action you take to improve and maintain your health.

It ranges from simple acts, like eating healthily and exercising, to treating common ailments and managing long-term conditions.

Self-care also means knowing when (and how) you can treat yourself, and when you need advice from a GP or other health professional.

As a rule of thumb, treating yourself is recommended if you have a minor health problem that doesn’t need medical care (from a doctor or nurse, for instance) to get better.

These are often common conditions that you can manage without seeing a doctor, like colds, hay fever, sprains and strains, sore throats, sinusitis, earaches and headaches.

Most people are comfortable managing these everyday conditions without seeing a GP – in fact, about 80% of all care in the UK is self-care.

But, how do you know if your condition is ‘minor’ or ‘common’, and how you should treat yourself?

Well, pharmacists are experts in medicines and can help you with minor health concerns. They’ll suggest treatments and will let you know if you should seek advice from a GP. What’s more, pharmacies are open all day and you don’t need to make an appointment. You may find the What our local Pharmacists can do for you section on this website helpful.

There's also a range of information available to you in Get Health Information section in our own website. Or, you can consult one of the reliable, NHS-approved online resources that are available. These provide a wealth of information on numerous conditions, in addition to treatment advice and guidance on staying healthy.

These resources include apps like the NHS app, HANDi Paediatrics, My Diabetes and My COPD; the MyHealth Devon website and the eConsult online consultation platform, accessible on this website.

I’ll talk about each of these resources in more detail in future articles.


We have produced a leaflet that includes lots of information to help you look after yourself when you have a minor illness, ailment or injury. 

Pick up a copy in the surgery.