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Stay well this winter

Take a look at the advice below to prepare yourself this winter to make sure that you and your loved ones stay well.

Many of us get ill over winter, especially with coughs, colds and flu, but there are lots of things you can do to manage your winter illness yourself and help prevent catching it from others. 

Use your local pharmacy 

Pharmacists are experts in medicines and minor ailments. That means that you can drop in for advice and support on things such as coughs, colds and headaches without an appointment. Many pharmacies are in handy locations and are open evenings and weekends. You can use the NHS services finder to locate your nearest pharmacy. 

Look out for others

It is important to look out for elderly friends, neighbors and vulnerable people and check that they are safe and well through the winter. Make sure they are warm enough (especially at night) and have stocks of food and medicines so they do not need to go out in very cold weather. If you are worried about a relative or elderly neighbor, contact your local council,  ring the Age UK helpline on 0800 009966 or contact social services day or night on 0300 123 4042.

Think about which service is best

Use the NHS Symptom Checker which will help determine the right treatment for you.

If you need urgent medical attention but it is not an emergency, call NHS 111. One in four visitors to A&E could be treated elsewhere. Make sure you choose the right service so you get the right help, quickly. 

Keep basic medicines at home

Did you know you can treat many winter illnesses at home with some basic medicines? Having a well-stocked medicine cabinet can make a big difference – make sure you have enough to last until your GP surgery or pharmacy is open again.

Here’s what a well-stocked medicine cabinet should include:

  • pain relief such as paracetamol and aspirin (aspirin should not be given to under 16s or those who suffer with asthma)
  • ibuprofen syrups for children
  • mild laxative for constipation relief
  • cold relief products
  • rehydration mixes for those suffering from diarrhea and vomiting
  • indigestion remedy
  • a thermometer to check for fever
  • a range of bandages, plasters, non-absorbent cotton wool, and dressings for minor cuts, sprains and bruises

Remember to always follow the advice of your pharmacist, doctor or nurse when taking prescriptions and over the counter medicine. Read instructions carefully and only take the suggested dose.

Keep warm

A cold home can have a big impact on your health. One of the best ways of keeping well is to stay warm, you should:

  • keep your home warm - with the main living room between 18-21°C (64-70°F) and the rest of the house at a minimum of 16°C (61°F). 

  • wrap up warm - several thin layers of clothes are better than one thick layer,
  • keep active - by moving around at least once an hour and not sitting down for long periods of time,
  • eating well - try and have regular hot meals and drinks throughout the day. 

For more information on grants and making your home warmer, you can contact the Warm Front Scheme free on 0800 3162805.

Have your flu vaccination 

Every year, a large number of people die from complications caused by flu – having your flu vaccination is vital. The flu vaccination is offered free of charge to people at risk, pregnant women, carers and some young children. You can find out more about why getting the flu vaccination is so important on the Stay Well This Winter website.  

Flu is serious and is different to the common cold. Symptoms include a high temperature, body aches and fatigue.

• Flu kills an average of 8,000 people every year.

• The free flu vaccination is offered to those who are at increased risk from the effects of flu. These include people aged 65 and over, pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions and children (aged 2-9).

• This year, we’re offering a more effective ‘adjuvanted’ vaccine to those aged 65 and over, which helps their immune systems develop protection against flu. We are providing the ‘quadrivalent’ vaccine, which offers protection against four strains of flu, to those aged 18-64 with underlying health conditions. In addition, we are offering the vaccine as a nasal spray to an extra school year (year 5), meaning all children aged 2-9 can be vaccinated.

• For older people this could reduce GP consultations by 30,000, hospitalisations by over 2,000 and prevent over 700 hospital deaths from flu in England.

• If you’re eligible, get your flu vaccination from your general practice or pharmacy to protect yourself this winter before the end of November.

• If you think you have flu, stay home and rest until you feel better. Call NHS 111 if you have a underlying health condition or feel really unwell.

• Aside from having your flu vaccine, the best way to prevent the spread of flu is to practice good hand hygiene. Catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue, throw the tissue away and wash your hands.

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Further information 

The NHS Stay Well website has lots of further information to help you and your family stay well over the winter in cold weather.

Download our flyer aimed at parents with young children here.

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