Stay well this winter
Winter can bring cold and damp weather which can be bad for our health, especially for people aged 65 or older, and people with long-term conditions. The chilly days can aggravate any existing health problems and make us more vulnerable to the illnesses that are more common in winter, such as colds and flu.
By being cold you can raise the risk of increased blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. But there are lots of things you can do to stay well this winter.
- Make sure you have your flu jab. The flu jab is free if you’re aged 65 or over, or if you have a long-term health condition. If you have children or grandchildren aged two, three or four, or in school years one or two, they are eligible for a free flu vaccination. Don’t forget that if you’re aged 65 or over, you are eligible for the pneumococcal vaccine, which will help protect you from pneumococcal diseases such as pneumonia.
- Keep active when you are indoors. Tempting though it is to curl up and not do much, try not to sit still for more than an hour or so. Find out ways to get active.
- Keep warm. One of the best ways to keep healthy during winter is to stay warm. This means keeping your home warm, at a minimum of 18°C (65°F). Breathing in cold air can increase the risk of chest infections, so don't keep windows open or the central heating off. Respiratory diseases, such as asthma, are made much worse living in a cold home, and people are more likely to have strokes and heart attacks.
In cold weather, remember to wrap up by wearing several thin layers of clothes, which is more effective at keeping you warm. Wear shoes with a good grip, to prevent falls and trips and an unnecessary hospital admission.
- Look after yourself. Eating well can help improve wellbeing, manage weight and reduce the risk of developing illnesses and diseases. Food is also a vital source of energy, which helps keep the body warm. If you are feeling a little low and blue, seek some help
- Get help early. If you are feeling unwell, don't wait, go and see your nearest pharmacist. So if you feel like you’re coming down with something, even if it’s just a cough or a cold, don’t wait until it gets worse. Act quickly. The sooner you get advice from a pharmacist the better.
- Look out for others. Remember that other people, like older neighbours, friends and family members, may need a bit of extra help over the winter. There’s a lot you can do to help people who are more frail than you. Make sure they’re stocked up with enough food supplies for a few days, in case they can’t go out. If they do need to go out in the cold, encourage them to wear shoes with a good grip and a scarf around the mouth to protect them from the cold air, and to reduce their risk of chest infections.
- Is your medicine cabinet ready for winter? Your pharmacist can advise you on which medicines you should have in your cabinet, to help get you and your family through the winter season. Most winter illnesses can't be treated by antibiotics. The best thing to do is:
• Drink plenty of fluids
• Have at least one hot meal a day to keep your energy levels up
• Talk to your pharmacist for advice on getting any pain relief you need such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.