Winter health advice
Keep Well, Keep Warm
Very cold weather can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and severe breathing problems, as well as the number of falls.
During this prolonged cold spell, hospitals see more people with heart and chest problems and injuries caused by slips and falls. The advice is to stay well and look out for vulnerable friends and neighbours by checking they are warm enough, especially at night, and that they have food and medicines so they don't need to go out.
Top tips for keeping well in cold weather:
- At home, close curtains and shut doors to keep heat in
- Use hot water bottles or electric blankets to stay warm at night
- Eat well - try to have regular, hot meals and drink plenty throughout the day
- Wrap up warm, inside and out. Several thin layers are better than one thick layer. Wear hats, gloves and scarves
- If possible, stay inside during a cold period if you have heart or breathing problems
- Keep active. Move around at least once an hour and don't sit down for long periods. Even light exercise will help keep you warm and improve circulation
For further information, please visit Keep Warm, Keep Well
At this time of year, when NHS services are very busy, it's important to choose the right service. Choosing well will make sure that you receive the best possible treatment, leaving A&E and 999 for people who are badly injured or seriously ill.
By choosing the most appropriate service, you can help the NHS continue to cope with the challenges posed by the severe weather:
- Self-care - for minor illnesses, combine over-the-counter medicines with plenty of rest
- NHS Direct - can answer any health questions, around the clock, and help to find services. Call 0845 4647 or visit NHS Direct
- Pharmacist/chemist - for advice on illnesses and the right medicines
- GP - for medical advice, examinations and prescriptions for illnesses you can't shake off
- NHS walk-in centre - for treatment of minor illnesses or injuries, without an appointment
- Accident and emergency or 999 - only for critical or life-threatening situations
Seasonal flu vaccination
Hospitals have seen an increase in the number of people being admitted who are seriously ill from flu. The NHS is urging those at risk to make sure they protect themselves by getting the simple vaccination.
This year's flu vaccine protects against three seasonal viruses, including the H1N1 virus that caused the swine flu pandemic last year and which is still circulating this winter.
It is the same type of vaccine and made in the same way as the seasonal flu vaccine is produced every year - there is no reason for people to be concerned about any different level of reactions to the vaccine.
It does not carry any 'live' virus, which means the vaccine cannot give you the flu. Some people may experience mild fever up to 48 hours after having the jab as their immune system responds to the vaccine, but this is not flu. Most people suffer nothing worse than a slightly sore arm.
Flu is a preventable illness yet it can be extremely serious for people in 'at risk' groups, who are more susceptible to developing complications from the virus. For them, it can increase the risk of developing more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, or can make existing conditions worse. In the worst cases, seasonal flu can result in a stay in hospital, or even death.
That's why it's so important that all those in at risk groups contact their GP as soon as possible to arrange an appointment for the vaccination. It's important to remember that you need the flu vaccination every single year - you are not still protected if you had the jab last year.
Because the H1N1 virus that caused the swine flu pandemic will still be around this winter, this year's flu vaccine protects against H1N1 as well as other seasonal viruses. Pregnant women who catch this strain are at an increased risk of severe disease and flu-related hospital admissions and for this reason they are also being urged to get the flu vaccine if they didn't have the swine flu jab last year.
Those who are at risk of developing complications from flu include:
- All those aged 65 years and over
- Pregnant women who have not already had the swine flu jab
- People of all ages (over six months for children) who have:
- serious breathing problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
- chronic kidney disease, such as kidney failure
- chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
- a neurological condition, for example, multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
- people who are on medication for diabetes
- a suppressed immune system due to disease or treatment, such as cancer patients or those with conditions such as cystic fibrosis.
- had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
- a problem with your spleen, for example sickle cell disease, or you have had your spleen removed
- People who live with others whose immune systems are compromised, such as cancer patients on treatment or people with HIV/AIDS
- Those who are in receipt of a carer's allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill
For more information, please visit NHS Seasonal Flu Information
Catch it, bin it, kill it
Flu is a preventable infectious disease - nobody has to catch the virus. There are some simple, but very effective, measures we can take to reduce the spread: cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, dispose of the tissue immediately and then wash your hands thoroughly. In short - catch it, bin it, kill it.
If you get flu and you do not fall within an at risk group stay at home, rest, drink plenty of water and take paracetamol based cold remedies. If symptoms persist, call NHS Direct on 0845 4647.
Bookmark this page