Managing your minor ailments

If you’ve ever stopped by a pharmacy to pick up medication off the shelf for an annoying headache or to help relieve indigestion, you know how convenient it is to be able to treat these minor issues without seeing your doctor or going to a health clinic.

These conditions are called minor ailments. They are common, uncomplicated, and short-term health conditions that can be diagnosed and managed with minimal treatment and self-care at home.1,2 Usually these conditions do not require any blood work or lab tests and can be effectively managed with the help of your pharmacist.1

You can find more information on the most common minor ailments here (AB only).

Pharmacists have also helped Canadians manage minor ailments for many years using over-the-counter treatments.  Some provinces have even allowed pharmacists to prescribe medications for certain minor ailments. Let’s take a look at how simple, over-the-counter treatments can help.

Picking an over-the-counter medication

Over-the-counter medications are available for selection and purchase without a prescription. These are medications that help relieve many symptoms and cure some conditions quickly and without having go see your doctor. They are generally safe and effective when you follow the directions on the label or as directed by your health care provider.2 Shoppers Drug Mart® carries a variety of products to help manage any minor ailments you may experience.

Some products used to treat minor ailments include:

  • Tylenol® Extra Strength EZ Tabs
  • Advil® Liquid Gels
  • Advil® Extra Strength Liquid Gels
  • Spectro Eczema Care Medicated Cream
  • Life Brand Hydrocortisone Cream Anti – Itch Cream

With so many products to choose from, it’s easy to get confused.  This is where your pharmacist can help you select the right treatment for you. Although over-the-counter treatments are a convenient option, if your symptoms become more serious or are not improving, it’s best to talk to your pharmacist or visit your healthcare professional.  They’ll be able to do more assessments and can also prescribe further medications if needed.

How your pharmacist can help

Pharmacists are well educated in advising consumers on products to treat minor ailments with their in-depth knowledge of hundreds of medications, including prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin and mineral supplements, and herbal products. In general, pharmacists can help by:1-3

  • Assessing your condition by completing a full assessment of your medical conditions, medications, and symptoms
  • Determining if treatment is needed for the condition
  • Providing recommendations for over-the counter medications or non-medical strategies to help your symptoms
  • Assessing for potential interactions with other medications you may be taking
  • Performing on-the-spot screenings*
  • Prescribing a prescription medication for you*
  • Explaining the best way to take your medication
  • Explaining side effects and how to manage them
  • Refer you to a different healthcare provider if you need additional assessment or follow up

*Some services are only available in certain provinces. Click here to find what services are available at your local Shoppers Drug Mart®.

These services can be very helpful especially if you don’t have access to a doctor, do not have a primary care provider, or if you simply need advice quickly. Also, most pharmacies have private counselling areas if you have a more sensitive issue you would like to discuss.

If you have a question about a minor ailment or a product, our pharmacists are always available to help.

Here are some other articles you may be interested in:


  1. Assessing and Prescribing for Minor Ailments. Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia. Retrieved from: Accessed July 8, 2020.
  2. Nakhla N. Patient Self Care and Minor Ailments. (2019). Compendium of Therapeutics for Minor Ailments. Accessed July 8, 2020.
  3. Pharmacists’ Expanded Scope of Practice. (2020). Canadian Pharmacists Association. Retrieved from: Accessed July 9, 2020.