Princess Street Group Practice
2 Princess Street

Self Help Advice

Coughs and Colds

Coughs and colds are very common, particularly in the winter months. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, fever, cough and feeling generally unwell. Most coughs and colds last for up to 5-10 days.

Coughs and colds are caused by viruses which are not affected by antibiotics. GPs do not, therefore, prescribe antibiotics for coughs and colds. Occasionally there are instances where there is an additional infection such as a chest infection, ear or sinus infection which may require antibiotics.

Regular Paracetamol or Ibuprofen is recommended for fever and discomfort. Decongestants can also be helpful. Advice about treatment and medication is available from your local pharmacist.

Consider seeing your GP if you have symptoms which are not settling after 7-10 days or if you think you may have developed a chest, ear or sinus infection.


Flu or influenza is a serious illness that can be fatal in susceptible individuals such as the very young or elderly. Symptoms include fever, severe fatigue and muscle pain together with cough and respiratory symptoms.

Flu sufferers are generally unable to get out of bed and feel very unwell for 7-10 days.

There is treatment (antiviral medicine) available for true influenza and we also encourage all at risk groups to have an annual flu jab.


Antibiotics are not useful in treating viral infections such as cold, flu or gastroenteritis. There is an increasing problem with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics both in hospital and in the community (e.g. MRSA). It is very important that antibiotics are only prescribed when they will be effective, so that we do not encourage antibiotic resistance. We do not therefore prescribe antibiotics for viral coughs and colds.

Diarrhoea and vomiting

Diarrhoea and vomiting is generally caused by either a viral tummy bug or by food poisoning. Most diarrhoea and vomiting will settle down spontaneously after a few days.

Try to continue drinking small, regular amounts of clear fluids. If you are hungry, take small amounts of plain bland food such as toast or plain biscuits. Oral hydration sachets such as Dioralyte can be helpful for babies and young children. Regular Paracetamol is recommended for fever or abdominal pain.

Young children, babies and the elderly should contact their GP if vomiting continues for 24 hours as they may become dehydrated.

Emergency Contraception

If you need emergency contraception and the practice is closed pharmacies in Southwark are trained to advise you and provide this service. If you are under 30 this can be provided free of charge.


A fever is normally an indication of an infection such as a cold, gastroenteritis, ear, chest or urine infection developing.

Cool drinks, light clothing, fans and regular Paracetamol and/or Ibuprofen will all help reduce your temperature.

You should contact your GP for advice if a fever persists for more than a few days with no obvious cause, or if the fever is not controlled by the above measures.

Chicken pox

Chicken pox is caused by a viral infection and is particularly common in spring and autumn.

Typical small blister type spots on the front and back are often the first sign of chicken pox. The spots are generally itchy and continue appearing for 5-7 days. They may also appear in the scalp and mouth. After approximately a week all the spots will crust over and the affected person is no longer infectious. There is often an associated fever.

Symptoms can be treated with regular Paracetamol or Ibuprofen for fever. Calamine lotion/cream and antihistamine medicine can be helpful for the itch.

Most cases of chicken pox do not need to see their GP. Small babies and adults can be more severely affected and should seek advice. Pregnant women should also see their GP if they are in contact with chicken pox.


Apply large amounts of cool or tepid water immediately to any area that has been burned or scalded. Do not apply iced water, ice or butter.

If the burn is pink or red with no blistering, then a clean dressing can be applied. The burn should heal within and few days. Paracetamol or Ibuprofen may be helpful for pain.

Seek medical attention if there is any blistering, weeping or severe pain. Electrical burns should always be seen by a health professional.

Hay fever

Hay fever symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes and throat. It is most common between May and August.

Treatment for hay fever includes antihistamine tablets, eye drops and nasal sprays. These are all available over the counter at the chemist. Advice is also available from your local pharmacist.

Injections for hay fever are not recommended and are not provided at this surgery.

If your symptoms are severe and persist despite the above treatment, please see your GP.


Most insect bites cause some redness, swelling and itching. Symptoms can be helped by antihistamine tablets and 1% hydrocortisone cream which are both available at the chemist.

Dog, cat or other mammal bites can become infected and carry a small risk of passing on infections such as tetanus. Any mammal bite should be seen by the GP or Practice Nurse.

Other useful sites for self help

NHS Direct