Smart Consumer: The cure for costly GP bills may be in your pharmacy
In these straitened times, €40 or €60 is a lot to fork out on a visit to the doctor if you or your child is feeling unwell.
It costs so much that many put a visit off and hope for the best.
But there is another option, at least for minor ills, and it costs nothing: your local pharmacist.
For many, the local chemist is a place to pick up a prescription and buy some medical supplies or cosmetics, but according to the Irish Pharmacy Union, your pharmacy should be the first and last port of call on your medical journey.
In fact, since November 1 last, pharmacies are required to provide a dedicated consultation area so you can talk in private.
The pharmacist might refer you to a doctor, but equally you may have a condition that can be treated by over-the-counter medicine and that way you can avoid paying the doctor's hefty fee.
Some pharmacists can offer help in perfecting the right inhaler technique for asthma sufferers, monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol, test your blood glucose and help with weight management and Body Mass Index testing.
Some even offer baby-weighing services, which can save new mums a trip to their local health nurse.
In mid-January Boots started selling the morning-after pill without prescription and since late last month this service is now available in all pharmacies.
The most common ailments your local chemist can help with for free are:
1 Skin rashes, runny noses, high temperatures.
2 Aches and pains, whether non-specific or a sports injury.
3 Sore throats, colds and headaches. Remember your GP may not prescribe an antibiotic, so save yourself the trip.
4 Indigestion and stomach aches.
5 Personal issues such as constipation, haemorrhoids, bowel problems and your sexual health.