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Winter health

NHS stay well campaign

The NHS have launched their stay well this winter campaign.

You will find information about flu vaccinations, keeping warm, winter illnesses and winter tiredness. As well as a wide range of resources to help you stay well over winter.

Go to stay well this winter 

Keeping warm helps you to keep you well. If you do not keep warm, you may have problems with breathing which could lead to a serious chest infection.

Keep healthy this winter

Illness can affect you at any time of year, however  there are a few complaints which are associated with the cold weather.

The good news is that there are steps you can take to make sure you avoid, or reduce your experience of, the most common seasonal ailments.

Get a flu jab

Flu is a highly infectious illness that spreads rapidly through the coughs and sneezes of people who are carrying the virus. Some people are more at risk of complications from the flu virus, such as pneumonia and bronchitis. If you're classed at being at risk make sure you have your annual flu vaccine. They are available from September onwards from your GP or pharmacy.

If you are at risk of complications from flu, you may be eligible for a free flu jab if you are:

  • aged 65 and over. Those aged 50 to 64 years old will also be offered flu vaccination this year
  • aged six months to under 65 in clinical risk groups (with a long term health condition)
  • pregnant
  • children of a certain age 
  • in residential or nursing homes
  • a carer

If you are a health care or social worker, check the arrangements with your employer to see if you are eligible for the vaccine as it is recommended that front line workers are vaccinated every year against the flu.

If you are unsure if you qualify for the free flu jab, contact your GP.

Coping with a cold

Colds and the flu virus are different things. A cold isn't just a mild version of flu. Colds can be unpleasant and inconvenient, however flu can be dangerous, particularly for the very young, old or people with some existing conditions.

However, the symptoms of colds and flu are very similar. According to the NHS, you may experience:

  • blocked or runny nose
  • sore throat
  • headaches
  • cough
  • sneezing
  • pressure in your ears and face
  • loss of taste and smell
  • a high temperature or fever
  • muscle aches and pains
  • exhaustion and the need to lie down
Treating a cold

Antibiotics do not work on colds and you do not need to see your GP unless:

  • you have had your symptoms for around three weeks
  • your symptoms suddenly get worse
  • you have a fever
  • you have an existing chronic condition.

Your pharmacist can help you feel treat the symptoms, or you can buy many cough and cold remedies from shops and supermarkets.

Additionally you should:

  • get plenty of rest
  • stay hydrated
  • keep warm
  • eat light, nutritious meals
Catch it, kill it, bin it

Help prevent the spread of colds and flu by always using tissues, throwing them away immediately and washing your hands well.

Tips for staying well in winter

Staying healthy over winter can be a challenge for anyone, especially for those that manage a long term condition or have a weakened immune system such as, young children, pregnant women and the elderly.

Tips for a healthier winter
  • drink plenty of fluids: water will help keep you hydrated

  • eat your five a day: hot vegetable soups and stews are a great way to keep you warm and healthy

  • add moisture to the air in your house with a humidifying device

  • when outside on cold days, breathe through your nose and wrap a scarf around your face, it will help warm the breathed in air which may save you a few coughing spells

  • if others have a cold, try to avoid them as their germs are airborne

  • keep your nose clean. Blow your nose as often as required. Your nose works overtime in the winter months by trapping dust and germs

  • keep active. If the weather gets too bad to exercise outside, walking around the house, climbing the stairs and cleaning the house all count as exercise.

  • avoid dust. Replace the air filters if you have a central heating system and dust frequently, especially where dust can gather in hard to reach places

  • keep a healthy weight. During winter months, try and stay at or below your ideal weight

  • consider the flu vaccine

  • stay away from smokers. Be aware that smoke from someone else’s cigarettes can be irritating and as harmful to you as if you were smoking.

You can't avoid every illness over the cold weather, but you can be prepared and manage whatever comes your way. Keep a basic medical kit stocked with supplies for the most common ailments such as cold and flu remedies, cough medicine and throat lozenges and you won't have to wait to start treating the symptoms.

It's also a good idea to keep stocked up on non perishable food and household essentials, so that if you do become ill, you don't have to venture out into the cold.

Get warm and stay warm

Whether you are going out or staying at home there are simple things that you can do to get warm and then hang on to that heat as long as possible.

The cold weather can affect your health, particularly if you have a long-term condition so it's important to try and keep yourself and your home warm.

Some people are more at risk from the cold, including the elderly, very young and disabled people.

Wear layers

You may have heard this many times, but that's for a simple reason. It works! The layers trap warm air between them meaning you have your own insulation. If you're going out, you should aim for at least three layers. Next to your skin you want light, soft clothing such as a long sleeved t-shirt.

Next you need something warm like a woolly jumper and lastly a good water and windproof coat. If you do have to go out and you don't have a waterproof jacket, make sure you change clothes and dry off as soon as possible if you get wet. You cool down much quicker when you are wet and prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can cause illnesses such as hypothermia.

Don't forget to layer up other clothing too. You can put thick socks over a thin pair and wear leggings or lycra sports trousers under jeans or looser trousers.

Wrap up well

Getting the layers right is one thing but you also need to cover up the other parts that are likely to feel the chill too.

You can pick up hats, scarves and gloves for relatively low cost and they are great at stopping the wind getting in through gaps in your coat, or keeping your ears and fingers warm.

It's especially important to keep your hands from getting too cold as this can cause extreme discomfort as well as making it difficult to use them if you need to tie shoelaces, or perhaps look for change while you are out and about.

Take the heat with you

Before you go out it's a good idea to pre-warm your gloves, hat and boots. Put them on a radiator or near a radiator for a few minutes before you go out (taking care that it's safe to do so) and your head, hands and feet will be toasty warm before you even go out.

If you're going to be out for a while you can keep snug by taking something to help keep you warm. Many shops sell low cost hand and feet warming pads that can be either single use or reusable. They are usually room temperature but when you snap them, they heat up. You can slip them in your gloves, pockets or shoes for instant heat.

You could also take a flask with a hot drink or soup in. As well as warming your hands, this will give you energy and warm you from the inside out.

Staying safe in summer

There are a lot of risks and accidents associated with the summer months from sunburn, heat stroke, dehydration, insect bites and water based incidents.

If you are cooking on the barbeque, the two main risk factors are:

  1. undercooked meat

  2. spreading germs from raw meat onto food that is ready to eat (cross-contamination)

This is because raw or undercooked meat can contain germs that cause food poisoning such as salmonella, E. coli and campylobacter. However, these germs can be killed by cooking meat until it is piping hot throughout.

Cooking meat on a barbeque

When you’re cooking any kind of meat on a barbeque, such as poultry (chicken or turkey), pork, steak, burgers or sausages, make sure:

  • you always wash your hands after touching raw meat

  • use separate utensils (plates, tongs and chopping boards) for cooked and raw meat

  • coals are glowing red with a powdery grey surface before you start cooking, as this means that they’re hot enough

  • frozen meat is properly thawed before you cook it

  • never wash raw chicken or other poultry before cooking as this increases the risk of spreading campylobacter bacteria

  • don’t put raw meat next to cooked or partly cooked meat on the BBQ

  • don’t put sauce or marinade on cooked food if it has already been used with raw meat

  • you turn the meat regularly and move it around the barbeque to cook it evenly

Remember that meat is safe to eat only when:

  • it is piping hot in the centre
  • there is no pink meat visible
  • any juices are clear

Don’t assume that because meat is charred on the outside that it will be cooked properly on the inside, always check before you eat or serve by cutting the thickest part of the meat and ensure none of it is pink on the inside.

Children are fascinated by water, it’s fun, keeps them cool and is great exercise, however anyone can drown and even the best supervisors and carers can get briefly distracted, and all it takes to drown is three minutes face-down in water.

Children between 2 and 6 years old are particularly at risk of drowning in ponds and paddling pools. Between 5 and 10 children a year drown in a garden pond and in 2012, 18 children under the age of 15 drowned in the UK.

If you have a pond and a toddler the best thing to do is fill the pond in with sand to make a sand pit. Otherwise, cover it with a substantial grille or put a fence around it.

At holiday villas with a pool check the following:

  • does the pool have a lifeguard or pool attendant? A pool attendant is only responsible for keeping the poolside clean, rather than ensuring safety in the water

  • does the pool have a barrier? Having a fence is particularly important at villas if you have younger children

  • open water is generally where older children and teenagers are most at risk from features near to their homes such as rivers, lakes and coastal water near to the shore. Have an early conversation about how to stay safe and the risks of colder, open water. Even the strongest swimmer can be affected by cold water shock which affects the ability to control breathing which can lead to gasping, panic and in the worst cases, drowning. Cold water shock can start at 15°C and the average temperature of the sea around Britain is 12°C
  • avoid drinks while engaging in activities such as swimming is a good place to start for ensuring a safe summer (Research shows that half of all water recreation deaths of teens and adults involve the use of alcohol)

  • ensuring your child can swim is another great way to ensure they’ll be safe in and around water 

Sunlight contains two types of ultraviolet radiations; UVA and UVB. It is the exposure to these rays than can lead to damage on the body.

UVB rays are mainly responsible for burning the skin whereas UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply and are associated with ageing of the skin (wrinkling, leathering, sagging and other light-induced effects of ageing).

Sunscreens vary in their ability to protect your skin from UVA and UVB and no sunscreen is perfect. Following the important tips below will help ensure you help your skin stay healthy, youthful and burn free -

  • regardless of the sunscreen strength, reapply it to your skin at least every two hours. Reapply more often if in and out of the water and or playing sports

  • reddening of the skin is a reaction to UVB rays only, damage by UVA may be well underway without you knowing so follow other sun safety procedures such as covering up or removing yourself from the sun between 11am and 3pm

  • wear a good quality sunscreen at least an SPF 15

  • check the ingredients to make sure it covers for UVB and UVA

  • everyone over the age of 6 months should wear sunscreen on a daily basis regardless of whether the sun is out. Children under the age of 6 months should be kept out of the sun as their skin is still too delicate

An insect bite or sting often causes a small lump to develop which is usually very itchy. A small hole, or the sting itself may also be visible.

The lump may have an inflamed (red and swollen) area around the bite that may be filled with fluid.
Insect bites are common in the summer months and usually come from one of the following insects:

  • midges, mosquitos, gnats
  • fleas
  • horseflies
  • bedbugs
  • ticks
  • mites
  • spiders
  • wasps and hornets
  • bees
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