The long Easter weekend traditionally puts extra pressure on health services, with visitors to Devon increasing the number of people here at a time when GP practices are closed.
The NHS is stressing that A&E departments are not an alternative to a GP appointment, so patients should only attend A&E if they have a genuine life-threatening emergency.
For those who do succumb to a virus, minor conditions such as headaches, colds and back pain can be treated effectively by a pharmacist, who can offer a range of solutions and advice without the need of a GP.
Another service for patients this Easter is the NHS 111 free helpline, which can connect callers to a nurse, emergency dentist or even a GP, and can arrange face-to-face appointments if they think one is needed.
Dr Shelagh McCormick, a Devon GP, said: “By using self-care where appropriate, people are helping to free up the health system, which in turn helps patients who are in most need to get the medical attention they need.
“Pharmacists can help provide you with advice and over-the-counter medicines that will help relieve your symptoms.
“They are highly qualified to give advice on a range of common health problems and the best medicines to treat them, as well as prescribing from a range of medications.”
Research shows that healthy people cope better with a wide range of ailments, so self-care is a way of helping yourself – by eating sensibly, losing weight, drinking less alcohol and stopping smoking.
Dr McCormick added: “Obviously, at any time of year it’s particularly important to stay as healthy as we can, especially for people with a long-term condition, but the aim is start a lifestyle pattern now that can help us stay healthy for our whole life.
“Over the Easter period, many of us overindulge and then tell ourselves we will make amends later in the year, but the self-care message is about enjoying yourself while bearing in mind that moderation is good for you today and in the future.
“For people with a long-term condition, self-care is key to understanding their condition and knowing how best to live with it throughout the year.”Follow