The colder months can be seriously bad for our health but there's a number of things we can all do to help keep ourselves and our families well this winter.
We are supporting the 2017 Stay Well This Winter campaign Stay Well This Winter is a joint initiative from the NHS and Public Health England, to help people, especially people with a long-term condition and those aged over 65, to get ready for winter and ward off common illnesses that crop up at this time of year so they won't need a trip to hospital.
Winter can be challenging for the health of older people or people who are not otherwise fit and well but there a number of things which can help people prepare themselves for the cold weather:
- protect against flu by getting the flu vaccination, those over 65, pregnant women, children aged 2-4 and in school years 1 and 2 and people with long-term health conditions can receive this free from their GP or pharmacist;
- it's important to keep warm in winter – both inside and outdoors, so if possible keep homes at least 18°C (65°F);
- at the first sign of illness, seek immediate advice and help from your pharmacist. Take prescribed medicines as directed and pick up any prescription medicines before Christmas Eve;
- Keep an eye on people who are more vulnerable than you such as elderly neighbours, relations or people who are not in good health;
- If you do need help when your GP surgery or pharmacy is closed, call NHS 111 or visit www.nhs.uk.
The Stay Well This Winter campaign can help you and your family prepare for winter. Visit http://www.nhs.org.uk/staywell for more information. You can download a useful leaflet by clicking here or keep reading this page for tips.
Get ready for winter
Did you know the cold and damp weather, ice, snow and high winds can all aggravate any existing health problems and make us more vulnerable to illnesses that are more common in winter. Being cold can raise the risk of increased blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.
But there are lots of things you can do to stay well this winter.
The flu virus strikes in winter and it can be far more serious than you think. Flu can lead to serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and it can be deadly.
That’s why the flu jab is free if you’re aged 65 or over, or if you have a long-term health condition. If you have children or grandchildren aged two, three or four, or in school years one or two, they are eligible for a free flu vaccination. And if you are the main carer of an older or disabled person you may also be eligible for a free flu jab.
Just speak to your GP.
Also, don’t forget that if you’re aged 65 or over, you are eligible for the pneumococcal vaccine, which will help protect you from pneumococcal diseases such as pneumonia.
It's really important to keep warm in winter – both inside and outdoors.
Keeping warm over the winter months can help to prevent colds, flu and more serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression.
Heat your home to at least 18°C (65°F). You might prefer your main living room to be slightly warmer.
Keep your bedroom window closed on winter nights. Because breathing cold air can be bad for your health as it increases the risk of chest infections. Keep active when you’re indoors.
Try not to sit still for more than an hour or so.
Wear several layers of light clothes. Because they trap warm air better than one bulky layer.
Make sure you’re receiving all the help you’re entitled to. There are tips to make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating and keep up with your energy bills at www.gov.uk/phe/keep-warm
And check your heating and cooking appliances are safe. Contact a Gas Safe registered engineer to make sure they’re operating properly.
Please don’t wait – get advice from your nearest pharmacist.
Winter can make existing health problems worse. So if you feel like you’re coming down with something, even if it’s just a cough or a cold, don’t wait until it gets worse. Act quickly. The sooner you get advice from a pharmacist the better.
Pharmacists are fully qualified to advise you on the best course of action. So go to see a pharmacist
as soon as you start to feel unwell. This can be the best and quickest way to help you recover and get back to normal.
If you can’t get to a pharmacist yourself, ask someone to go for you or call your local pharmacy.
Most common winter ailments, such as a cold, sore throat, cough, sinusitis or painful middle ear infection (earache), can’t be treated with antibiotics.
The best thing to do is:
• Drink plenty of fluids
• Have at least one hot meal a day to keep your energy levels up
• Talk to your pharmacist for advice on getting any pain relief you need such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Your pharmacist can advise you on which medicines you should have in your cabinet, to help get you and your family through the winter season.
Take medicines as directed
If you’ve been prescribed antibiotics or any other medication, make sure you take them as directed.
Remember that other people, like older neighbours, friends and family members or people who are not otherwise fit and healthy, may need a bit of extra help over the winter.
There’s a lot you can do to help people who need a bit more support during the winter.
Icy pavements and roads can be very slippery and cold weather can stop people from getting out and about. Keep in touch with your friends, neighbours and family and ask if they need any practical help, or if they’re feeling under the weather.
Make sure they’re stocked up with enough food supplies for a few days, in case they can’t go out. If they do need to go out in the cold, encourage them to wear shoes with a good grip and a scarf around the mouth to protect them from the cold air, and to reduce their risk of chest infections.
And make sure they get any prescription medicines before the holidays start on 24 December and if bad weather is forecast.
If you do need help over the holiday period when your GP surgery or pharmacy is closed, call NHS 111 and speak to a call adviser who will be able to direct you to a local service that is open. You can also visit NHS Choices at www.nhs.uk