Despite growing interest in self-care, this important aspect of illness behavior has received little attention, apart from self medication, in the literature. An exploratory study of self-care in a group of 26 women who kept a health diary for 4 weeks has shown that self-care was practiced on more than 80 per cent of days when medical problems were present. In addition to self-medication or referring their problems to health professionals or significant lay people such as relatives or friends, the women reported many "nonmedical" actions or events to be of therapeutic benefit. It is suggested that self-care, like illness, requires a holistic assesment of the complex interaction of social, psychological and medical factors. More information is required on the content and process of the extensive self-care already practiced. Without this information, the potential health and economic benefits of current support for more self-care may not be realized.