Be prepared for cold winter months and stay well

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The cold winter weather can be harmful to health, especially for elderly and vulnerable people, and North Lincolnshire Council is urging people to do a few simple things to keep you and your family well this winter – including getting the flu vaccine.

Not only can the cold weather increase your risk of getting colds, coughs and flu but it can weaken the body’s ability to fight off viruses and infections, and increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes and chest infections.

Don’t put off getting the flu vaccine. Flu is an unpleasant illness, but if you are healthy it’s not serious and you will usually recover within a week or two. However for some people, catching the flu increases the risk of potentially serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia. These people are therefore advised to have a flu jab each year.

The injected flu vaccine is offered free on the NHS to people who are at risk. You are eligible to receive a free flu vaccine if you:

  • Are 65 years-old or over
  •  Are pregnant
  •  Have certain medical conditions (check with your pharmacist or GP to see if you are eligible)
  • Are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
  • Receive a carer’s allowance or are the main carer for an elderly, or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill

If you are a health and social care worker, check with your employer about who will pay for your flu vaccination.

The children’s flu vaccine is offered as a yearly nasal spray to young children to help protect them against flu. In the autumn and winter of 2016/17, the vaccine is available free on the NHS for:

  • children aged two, three and four on August 31 2016 – that is, children born between September 1 2011 and August 31 2014
  •  children in school years one, two and three
  •  children aged from six months to 17 with long-term health conditions

Older people aged 65 and over and those with long term conditions such as heart disease, COPD and diabetes are particularly vulnerable to winter illnesses.

If you are aware of a neighbour, friend or relative who is over 65 years old or has a long term condition and may find it difficult to get out, try to check that they are warm, well and their medicine cabinet is stocked up.

Having some company may also reduce social isolation. To find out more about support and activities for older people, visit www.northlincs.gov.uk/people-health-and-care/services-for-adults/getting-in-touch/adult-information-service/ .

It is important that older people and those with a long term condition keep warm both in and outside the house. This can be done by:

  • Wearing several layers of light clothes
  • Making sure the house is heated to at least 18 degrees Celsius
  • Encouraging mobility to prevent them sitting for long periods
  • Closing bedroom windows at night
  • Keeping the mouth and nose covered when outside the home as cold air can increase the risk of chest infections

Keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet could protect people from becoming unwell or getting worse if they are already unwell and it is important to get advice early from a pharmacist. This could prevent them getting much worse and even being admitted to hospital.

Coughs, colds and minor ailments can be treated at home and it isn’t necessary to visit the GP as antibiotics are not needed. Make sure medicine cabinets are stocked up over the Christmas holiday period when it might be more difficult to find a pharmacy open.

Pharmacists provide good health advice and can advise on whether a visit to your GP is needed. There is also the free NHS 111 service for urgent healthcare needs. It directs you to the right local service, first time. This is available across England, making it easier for you to access urgent healthcare services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year when you need medical help.

The NHS Stay Well This Winter campaign gives advice on being prepared for winter, visit www.nhs.uk/staywell.

For more information on stocking up medicine cabinets and how to keep well this winter, visit the Self Care Forum at www.selfcareforum.org.

Cllr Carl Sherwood, cabinet member for Health and Wellbeing, said:

Keeping an eye out for elderly and vulnerable relatives and neighbours, and supporting them in the cold weather can help them stay well this winter. Make sure you are prepared for the winter months by keeping your medicine cabinet stocked up; this can prevent a number of illnesses and any unnecessary trips to your GP.

“It is important to do all you can to prevent serious illnesses during the winter, including getting vaccinated against flu every year. If you are eligible for a free flu vaccine, make sure you have this done.

“If you have a long term condition and start to feel unwell, get advice from your local pharmacist before it gets more serious.”

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