Stay well this winter

The conditions that winter brings, including cold and damp weather, can be bad for your health.

We are all at risk of getting ill over the winter period, however there are certain groups of people who are more at risk than others. They are:

  • those who are aged 65 or over
  • those who already have health problems
  • young children
  • pregnant women

See your pharmacist if you are feeling unwell

The best thing to do if you start to feel unwell is to go and see your pharmacist as soon as you can.

Pharmacists are experts in medicines and can help you when symptoms appear. They can offer advice on many minor ailments and injuries which can help you before they get more serious. Don't wait until you feel worse

By treating symptoms early, it can be the quickest and best way to help you start to feel better.

Your pharmacist can see you without an appointment and many pharmacies have private consultation rooms. All you need to do is pop in and ask to speak to a pharmacist privately.

The pharmacist will be able to offer you advice on your symptoms, or will advise you that you need to seek appropriate medical attention from other services, such as your GP, NHS 111 or a local urgent care centre.

If you're too unwell, you can ask somebody to visit the pharmacist on your behalf, or you can call them instead.

Check your medicine cabinet

It can be a good thing to check your medicine cabinet to see what essentials you have in, just in case you start to feel unwell.

Your local pharmacist can advise you what medicines you should keep at home throughout the winter months. They can advise you on what medicines you should take for different symptoms, like colds, coughs, sore throats and earaches.

If you do start to feel unwell, the best thing to do is:

  • rest up
  • drink lots of liquids
  • have at least one hot meal each day - it will keep your energy up
  • take the medication your pharmacist has recommended

Prescriptions

It's important to remember that many pharmacies in the area will operate with different opening hours than usual over the Christmas and New Year period.

It is important to be as prepared as possible for your local pharmacy's change of opening hours by stocking up on any medicine you may need if you become unwell this winter.

If you have prescribed medication, make sure you have enough to see you through the festive period when your GP or pharmacy might be operating different opening hours.

You can find out the opening times for pharmacies in the area, over the Christmas and New Year period, by clicking here.

The threat of flu

Flu occurs every year and usually over the winter months.

It's important to understand that the flu is not just a bad cold. It is a highly infectious disease with symptoms that come on very quickly. Colds are much less serious and usually start gradually with a stuffy or runny nose and a sore throat.

A bad bout of the flu is much worse than a heavy cold. The most common symptoms are fever, chills, headache, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness. Those who are healthy usually recover within two to seven days, but for some the disease can lead to hospitalisation, permenant disability or even death.

Flu is caused by an viruses that infect the windpipe and lungs. Because it is a virus and not bacteria, it cannot be treated by antibiotics.

By nature, the flu is unpredictable. Getting a vaccination is the best protection against catching the types of flu viruses that circulate.

The flu vaccination

The flu is a risk to everybody, but for certain groups of people it can be more dangerous. They are:Get your flu jab

For these people, the flu vaccination is completely free and is so because they need it.

Read why they need it by clicking on each bullet point above.

Keep warm

It is 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), and keep your bedroom window closed on winter nights. Breathing cold air can be bad for your health as it increases the risk of chest infections.

Try not to sit still for more than an hour or so, and wear several layers of light clothes - they trap warm air better than one bulky layer.

Find out how you could pay less to heat your home at www.gov.uk/phe/keep-warm

It may also be advisable to get your cooker and heaters checked for over the winter month.

Look out for other people

Remeber to keep in touch with your older neighbours, friends and family over the winter period.

Loneliness is a big threat to a lot of people throughout winter. You can help somebody who might be lonely by simply checking up on them and seeing if they're okay.

This is especially important during bouts of severe weather. If the roads and pavements are icy, older people might not be able to get out to the shops or the local pharmacy if they need food or are in need of medication.

You should make sure that they have everything they need, including suitable clothing in case they do go out, medication to see them through and enough food to last at least a couple of days.

Let them know that you are there for them and they can contact you if they need somebody to talk to or your help with anything.

You should also let them know that if they need help over the holiday period, when their GP or pharmacy is closed, they can call NHS 111.