With its cold, wet or icy weather and colds and flu, Winter poses us some serious challenges, making journeys by car and on foot perilous and bringing long hours of darkness.
Yet winter is a time that many people enjoy, and with the right kind of preparation there’s no reason why many more can’t do so as well.
So, what can we do to make sure we’re winter ready?
Flu is much more than a bad cold. If you’re at increased risk for any reason – if you have a long-term health condition, or you’re older or very young – then flu can pose a real danger to your health. That’s why people in your situation are offered the seasonal flu vaccine free of charge. If you haven’t already had the jab or nasal spray, contact your GP.
If you’re not in one of these groups but you’d like to protect yourself and help protect those around you, you can have the jab at a pharmacy for a small fee (usually around £10). Ask at your local pharmacy if they have the vaccine in stock. You may have to make an appointment.
There’s an old quote that says: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.”
The principle is that we can’t control the weather but we can control how we prepare and deal with it.
The importance of keeping warm and dry cannot be stressed enough.
When going out on cold/wet days, make sure you have warm, waterproof clothing, in multiple thin layers rather than fewer thicker ones. Footwear should be sturdy and with plenty of grip - Think ‘Grippy, not Slippy’.
Keep moving, whether inside or out. Activity is a good way to fend off the cold.
Make sure your home heating is in good working order before the really cold weather sets in. If you can’t keep all of your rooms warm, make sure that the rooms where you spend most of the time are heated to at least 18°.
You may be fine but there could be other people around you who are vulnerable to what winter can bring. Think about family members, friends and neighbours and whether there is anything you can do to support them to stay as healthy as can be.
If you’re a carer, you need to ensure you are ok first, as you can’t provide proper care to anyone else if you’re not well yourself.
Check out these booklets for more information: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/keep-warm-keep-well-leaflet-gives-advice-on-staying-healthy-in-cold-weather
As the winter deepens it shouldn’t be any surprise if at some point you, or someone you know, start to feel under the weather.
If this happens, please don’t try and tough it out. At the first sign of illness, talk to your pharmacist, as they might be able to help you avoid it becoming something more serious.
Pharmacists are highly-trained medical professionals who are able to help you with a wide-range of issues, from advising on minor ailments to helping people to stop smoking. They can also often be consulted without an appointment and can advise you on the appropriate health service if they are unable to manage the issue themselves.
Here’s what pharmacies can help with: https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/pharmacies/what-to-expect-from-your-pharmacy-team/
If you’re not feeling well it can be confusing as to where to turn for help. That’s why it’s best to know in advance, so it’s one less thing to worry about.
There's a sliding scale of severity, from self-care for anything you can look after yourself with the help of a well-stocked first aid kit or medicine cabinet, right the way up to 999 and A&E for the most serious, life-threatening emergencies.
Your pharmacist (see above) is a very useful point of contact for many ailments and issues, and if your GP surgery is closed and you have an urgent health concern, you should contact NHS111 or 111.nhs.uk. NHS111 has trained clinicians to support you, can advise you on what you need to do and can even make referrals to the GP out-of-hours service if necessary.
For people in North East Hampshire and Farnham, we’ve created this handy, quick-reference guide to help you get to the service you need, when you need it. By using the appropriate service this also helps the services to be more efficient and effective.