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Self-care of Minor Ailments

How CHIC educates customers to recognise and treat minor ailments: self-medication made safe.

The Consumer Health Information Centre

The Consumer Health Information Centre (CHIC) is an initiative run by PAGB and advised by an independent panel of GPs, pharmacists, nurses and consumer representatives. It aims to help consumers increase their understanding of common ailments and gain confidence in their recognition of, and ability to treat, these conditions. Campaigns run by CHIC to date have, included the annual Cold and Flu campaign, De-Stress not Distress, Mens Health and Pain and Pain Relief.

Over the coming months, CHIC will be encouraging consumers to think about other conditions and situations where they may want to self-medicate; these will include Upper Gl Ailments and Lower GI Ailments, Skin and Scalp Problems and Allergies.

The Pain and Pain Relief campaign was launched in May 2000 and included leaflets for consumers that were distributed through GP's surgeries, pharmacies and libraries, and offers made direct to the consumer via radio programmes and features in women's magazines and the consumer press generally. Other elements of the programme were the addition of a new section to the CHIC website on 'Pain and Pain Relief' (, and an intensive media campaign. As with previous campaigns, CHIC worked with other organisations such as the DPP, NPA, RCN and RPSGB to gain endorsement of the main messages.

CHIC believes that it is important to give the facts about minor illnesses in simple language and in a way that is easy to understand - all leaflet copy is checked by the Plain English Campaign, once it has been approved by the CHIC panel of experts. Explanations will be given as to why the problem has occurred in the first place. What can be done in the future to prevent a reoccurrence and the most effective way to treat the condition. In addition to recommending an OTC medicine to treat the condition, CHIC will always suggest a non- medical treatment where it is appropriate and will also recommend that the consumer should consult their pharmacist about the best remedy for their ailment if they are in any doubt as to what to do.

For the Pain and Pain Relief campaign, CHIC is talking about the definition and various types of pain, such as the difference between acute and chronic pain. Ways of 'beating' pain, other than with medication, are discussed and explanations given as to how the main types of OTC pain relief work, including which one is most appropriate for which type of pain. There is a section on Childhood Pain and one on Precautions and Side-effects.

PAGB was an active member of the Year 2000 Pharmaceutical Alliance, which was formed to represent all pharmaceutical interests and ensure easy access to effective and appropriate services and products in the run up to, and beyond the Millennium.

The '99/00 CHIC Ebenezer Sneezer Colds and Flu campaign persuaded consumers that it made sense to stock up in advance with a few OTC medicines such as analgesics, sore throat remedies, decongestants and cough linctuses, so that the symptoms of coughs, cold and flu could be treated easily and effectively at home. This echoed the overall theme of the NHS campaign which was designed to encourage consumers to use healthcare services wisely and appropriately.

Acknowledgement of the CHIC initiative on Colds and Flu was made in the NHSE's 'Silver Bullet' publication, which was distributed to all UK Pharmacies, GP practices, NHS Trusts, Health Authorities and patient representative groups. In addition, the CHIC Colds and Flu website, giving suggestions for a wisely stocked 'winter' home medicine chest, was one of the few to be included in the list of useful contacts given by the publication.

Carrying on with this theme of 'being prepared', CHIC is now developing suggested lists of OTC medicines that different people might want to consider for their home medicine chests at different stages of their lives. PAGB's own research (1) shows that people are more likely to self-treat if they have something already in the home.

The information given will focus on three areas:

  • OTC medicines to treat common minor illnesses that most people experience from time to time, such as colds and flu, headache and skin abrasions
  • OTC medicines to treat problems that certain people may experience from time to time, such as indigestion, muscle pain, allergies and stomach upsets
  • OTC medicines that treat particular problems specific to (but not necessarily limited to) age, sexes or lifestyle.

In the first, core category - medicines for common minor illnesses that most people may experience from time to time, suggestions for the home medicine chest will include the following:

  • Oral pain relief i.e. aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol or any combination that may contain one of the above and an opioid analgesic, such as codeine or dihydrocodeine
  • Topical pain relief in the form of sprays, mousses and gels
  • Cold relief decongestants in spray, drop, capsule or tablet form and combination products containing pain relievers and decongestants in various formulations
  • Cough preparations, in liquid and lozenge formulations, suppressants and expectorants
  • Sore throat medicines pastilles, lozenges and sprays or gargles that may contain a local anaesthetic or antiseptic
  • Antiseptics creams, solutions and ointments.

In the second category - OTC medicines to treat problems that certain people may experience from time to time - information will be given on:

  • Indigestion remedies, explaining the differences between antacids, alginates and H2 antagonists
  • Hayfever/allergy relief, listing the different formulations, including antihistamines and hydrocortisone, etc.
  • Antidiarrhoeal preparations, covering the different formulations and the importance of oral rehydration
  • Cold Sore treatments, explaining the different functions of the various products available
  • Antifungals, for example, for treating athlete's foot.

The third category - OTC medicines that treat particular problems that may be specific to (but not necessarily limited to) age, sex or lifestyle - will include advice on some of the following medicines:

  • Hangover remedies
  • Spot/acne preparations
  • Skin and scalp treatments
  • Constipation remedies
  • Haemorroidal Preparations
  • Cystitis relief
  • Antifungals
  • Teething gels
  • Nappy rash treatments
  • Sunscreen products
  • Travel sickness pills
  • Antimalarials
  • Insect bite treatments
  • Smoking cessation products

CHIC will always remind consumers of the following:

  • Keep all medicines in a secure place, out of sight and reach of small children and preferably where an adult can keep an eye on them, for example, in the kitchen
  • Keep all medicines in their original container and take precautions to avoid them being affected by heat or humidity
  • Always read and follow the instructions on the packet, do not exceed the stated dose or the stated treatment period
  • Do not use or keep medicines past their sell-by date
  • Always check with your GP or pharmacist before taking an OTC medicine if you are pregnant or already taking any prescription medicine.

The Advisory Panel of experts is central to the educational function of all CHIC campaigns and all copy has to be approved by them before being disseminated to the public.

The panel is chaired by:
Tina Funnell - past chair of the National Eczema Society and the LMCA, Organising
Secretary to the Health Coalition Initiative and independent healthcare consultant
promoting the patient's perspective.

Other members are:
Dr Ian Banks - practising GP, chair of the BMA's working group on Men's Health, Board Member of the NHS Direct Healthcare Guide.
Professor Alison Blenkinsopp - Director of Education and Research, Department of
Pharmacy Education and Practice, Keele University.
Dr Jim Kennedy - Senior Lecturer in Primary Care and Public Health, Chelsea and Westminster Hospitals.
Ros Meek - former Health Visitor, now Sponsorship and Promotions Director at the
Royal Colleges of Nursing.
Dr Catti Moss - practising GP and a member of the RCGP's Patient Liaison Group.
Kate Pattle - Practice Nurse at Lambeth Walk Group Practice, part of the Department
of General Practice of GKT School of Medicine.
Dr Paul Stillman - practising GP and medical broadcaster.
Dr Patricia Wilkie - former chair of the Patient's Association and a social scientist.
Gerald Zeidman - community pharmacist and chairman of the RPSGB's Community
Pharmacy Group
Janice Langley - member of the National Federation of Women's Institutes Public Affairs working group.

(1) BMRB Everyday Lifestyle Study, 1997

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Copyright PAGB (Proprietary Association of Great Britain) - 2003 - All Rights Reserved. PAGB has made every effort to ensure the information contained in this site is as accurate and up to date as possible. However you should always read the label before you take a medicine for the first time as it is important that medicines are used correctly and according to the instructions. All OTC medicines are effective and safe when used properly. None of the information given in this directory should be construed to be advice or recommendation of a particular medicine. PAGB cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions.