Simple self-care measures could end the need for millions of visits to GPs every year, according to the Local Government Association.
It says one in five appointments is for minor ailments such as runny noses and colic in children.
The LGA says going to the pharmacist for advice or obtaining help from sites such as NHS Choices can be all people need.
And it says people need to “stop and think” before booking a GP appointment.
The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, took over responsibility for public health – including health awareness – in 2013.
Back pain is one of the most common causes for a GP visit yet the majority of cases can be treated with over-the-counter treatments and self care.
The same is true, says the LGA, of other minor ailments, such as coughs, colds and indigestion.
‘Hour a day’
Jonathan MacShane, who is on the LGA’s Community Wellness Board said: “We know GP practices are under huge pressure as it is.
“So this inappropriate use of those valuable scarce appointments is really worrying.
“And we reckon that an average GP could save an hour a day if people weren’t attending with these kinds of conditions, which they could look after themselves.”
He added: “We could see real benefits if we could get this shift in behaviour.”
Izzi Seccombe, chairwoman of the board, added: “Self-care should be a central part of how we care for patients, which is something councils up and down the country are actively promoting.”
Dr Ian Banks, of the Self Care Forum – a body made up of representatives from organisations including the Men’s Health Forum, Public Health England and the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Most people are entirely capable of looking after themselves most of the time, self-treating when it’s safe and knowing where and when to seek help when they need it.
“There will always be others however, who might need a bit more support to become empowered and confident in making the right health decision.”
Self-care could cut need for millions of GP visits