10 minor health problems your pharmacist can help you with

Justin Hayde-West
Pharmaceutical Manager at Bupa UK
11 April 2018

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This article is more than three years old. It reflects the best available evidence at the time of publication.

Many of us go straight to the GP when we have a minor health problem, but have you ever thought about going to your pharmacist instead?

Pharmacists are healthcare professionals with an expertise in medicines and they can help with a wide range of common minor illnesses. They can offer advice around certain health problems, give you information about over-the-counter medicines that may help, and they can also advise you when to see your GP.

Here’s my list of 10 common minor health problems that can often be treated by a pharmacist.

  1. Coughs and Colds

    You can use medicines such as painkillers or decongestants from the pharmacy to help ease the symptoms of a cold. A pharmacist can also identify if there’s something more serious and if you need to see a doctor.

    If you’re eligble, you can also get the flu vaccine for free at your pharmacy.

  2. Thrush

    Thrush is a common infection and the symptoms can be uncomfortable. Your pharmacist can recommend treatment for you such as an antifungal medicine that will help clear up the infection. But they can only do this if you've had thrush diagnosed in the past by your GP and you can describe the symptoms.

    You can also ask your pharmacist for treatment advice about cystitis and period pain.

    All pharmacies have a private area for discussion if you don’t want to discuss it at the counter.

  3. Diarrhoea

    Diarrhoea usually clears up by itself in a few days, but your pharmacist can tell you about medicines that can help reduce your symptoms and how long they last. If you describe your symptoms to them they can recommend the best medicine or oral rehydration solution for you.

    Your pharmacist may also be able to help with other gut-related problems like indigestion and heartburn.

  4. Headache

    You can get painkillers from a pharmacy to help with a headache. Your pharmacist can also give you advice about recognising different types of headache. Most headaches are fleeting and not serious. But if your headache keeps coming back, or the pain is very severe and you notice other symptoms (for example blurred vision), then you should see a doctor.

    Your pharmacist may also be able to help you if you have ear ache, migraine or toothache. They will either suggest a helpful medicine or advise if you need to see another medical professional, such as a doctor or dentist.

  5. Eczema

    Pharmacists can advise on and supply moisturising creams for skin conditions like eczema. You usually need to apply the cream every day to reduce the dryness and cracking of your skin. Pharmacists can also give you steroid creams to use when your symptoms flare-up.

    If you have a skin rash, Athlete’s foot or mild acne, psoriasis or impetigo, your pharmacist may be able to advise on treatments for these too.

  6. Warts and Verrucas

    Warts and verrucas usually go away on their own, but you can buy creams, plasters and sprays from pharmacies to help get rid of them. You might need to use them every day for up to three months.

  7. Sunburn

    For mild sunburn you can seek advice and supplies from your pharmacist including painkillers, dehydration medicines, lotions and creams. You can also get advice about the best sun cream to use to prevent further damage.

  8. Hay fever

    Your pharmacist can often help with hay fever. They can give advice and suggest the best treatments including antihistamine drops, tablets or nasal sprays. Find out more about antihistamines.

    Your pharmacy can also be a good first port of call for insect bites and stings.

  9. Head lice (nits)

    You can use chemical or non-chemical based methods to remove head lice. Both are available from pharmacies. These include medicated lotions and sprays that kill head lice in all types of hair, or fine tooth combs which remove the head lice and eggs from the hair.

  10. Constipation

    Diet and lifestyle changes such as eating more fibre and drinking more fluids can usually help with constipation, but speak to a pharmacist if these aren't helping. They can offer advice and may suggest a suitable laxative.

When you should get other medical help

For lots of minor health problems, your pharmacy can be a great help. But if you feel very poorly, or symptoms aren’t easing or are getting worse, then contacting your GP, calling NHS 111 for advice (or if it’s an emergency, calling 999) is the best thing to do. 

Here at Bupa we understand how important your family is. So with our family health insurance you can rest assured knowing that eligible treatment and support is available to you and your loved ones when you need it.

Justin Hayde-West
Justin Hayde-West
Pharmaceutical Manager at Bupa UK

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