Important information from the NHS to help you stay well this winter
Winter conditions can be seriously bad for our health, especially for people aged 65 or older, and people with long-term conditions such as COPD, bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, diabetes or heart or kidney disease.
Being cold can raise the risk of increased blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. The cold and damp weather, ice, snow and high winds can all aggravate any existing health problems and make us more vulnerable to respiratory winter illnesses.
But there are lots of things you can do to stay well this winter.
Feeling unwell? Don’t wait – get advice from your nearest pharmacist or call 111
At the first sign of a winter illness, even if it’s just a cough or cold, get advice from your pharmacist, before it gets more serious. Act quickly. The sooner you get advice from a pharmacist the better. Pharmacists are fully qualified to advise you on the best course of action.
This can be the best and quickest way to help you recover and get back to normal. If you can’t get to a pharmacist yourself, ask someone to go for you or call your local pharmacy.
If you need medical advice, call the NHS 111 helpline, or visit https://111.nhs.uk/
You should call 111 if:
- You need medical help fast, but it’s not a 999 emergency.
- You don’t know who to call for medical help or you don’t have a GP to call.
- You think you need to go to A&E or another NHS urgent care service; or.
- You require health information or reassurance about what to do next.
It is important to keep warm in winter – both inside and outdoors. Keeping warm over the winter months can help to prevent colds, flu and more serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression.
- Heat your home to at least 18°C (65°F). You might prefer your main living room to be slightly warmer.
- Keep your bedroom window closed on winter nights. Breathing cold air can be bad for your health as it increases the risk of chest infections.
- Keep active when you’re indoors. Try not to sit still for more than an hour or so.
- Wear several layers of light clothes. Several layers trap warm air better than one bulky layer.
Make sure you’re receiving all the help that you’re entitled to. Learn how to make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating and keep up with your energy bills at www.gov.uk/phe/keep-warm
And check your heating and cooking appliances are safe. Contact a Gas Safe registered engineer to make sure they’re operating properly. Visit www.gassaferegister.co.uk
Watch GM Health & Social Care’s video – Keep Warm this Winter
The Met Office provides weather forecasts on radio and TV, so listen in to these bulletins regularly to keep up to date with the weather.
The Met office also has advice on getting ready for winter. This includes suggestions for practical things you can do to prepare for winter weather, including cold, ice and snow, high winds and flooding.
Check your medicine cabinet
Ask your pharmacist what medicines should be in your cabinet to help get you and your family through the winter season.
Many over-the-counter medicines (including paracetamol and ibuprofen) are available to relieve symptoms of common winter ailments, such as colds, sore throat, cough, sinusitis or painful middle ear infection (earache). So talk to your pharmacist for advice on getting the relief you need.
To manage winter illness symptoms at home:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Have at least one hot meal a day to keep your energy levels up
- Use over-the-counter medications to help give relief.
You can also order your repeat prescriptions online. To sign up to GP online services ask at your practice or to find out more visit www.nhs.uk/GPonlineservices
And, if you’ve been prescribed antibiotics or any other medication, make sure you take them as directed.
Look out for other people
Remember that other people, such as 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.
Icy pavements and roads can be very slippery and cold weather can stop people from getting out and about. Keep in touch with your friends, neighbours and family and ask if they need any practical help, or if they’re feeling under the weather.
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.
If they need help over the holiday period when the GP practice or pharmacy is closed, call NHS 111 and speak to a call adviser who will be able to direct you to a local service that is open. You can also find information at www.nhs.uk
Five things we recommend you do:
- Make sure you get your flu jab.
- Keep your home at 18°C (65°F) or higher if you can.
- Take advantage of financial schemes and discounts to help you pay for heating.
- Visit your local pharmacist as soon as you start to feel unwell with the symptoms of a respiratory winter illness.
- Look out for other people who may need a bit of extra help over the winter.
Where to go for the right medical care
999 – For life threatening emergencies call 999
Call 111 – If you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency, call NHS 111 for clinical advice, assessment and for direction to the most appropriate services for treatment.
GP or Pharmacy – For less urgent health needs, contact your GP or local pharmacist.
You can also access NHS advice at www.nhs.uk
For more information and advice visit www.nhs.uk/staywell
Our Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments can get very busy at times and you may wait longer than normal to be seen, for example in winter and over bank holidays.
Choose Well is a public information campaign to highlight the range of local healthcare services available for people – without having to wait for an appointment – if they have a minor illness, ailment or injury.
The main message from Choose Well is that 999 and A&E services are for people with serious injuries, illnesses and emergencies.
There are a number of other healthcare services that people can use for minor ailments and injuries, such as walk-in centres, urgent care centres and minor injuries units. And pharmacists can give advice and over-the-counter treatments for coughs, colds and stomach upsets such as sickness and diarrhoea.
Local pharmacies offer fully trained health professionals who can provide quality healthcare advice instantly. To find your nearest pharmacy, text ‘pharmacy’ to 64746.
By following the Choose Well guide below, you will be able to get the care you need, in the quickest time. It will also help to free-up local NHS services so they can care for the people who need it most.
- Self-care – for treatment of minor winter illnesses, by combining a well stocked medicine cabinet with plenty of rest.
- NHS 111 (dial 111 from your phone)/or visit the website – for absolutely any health questions, around the clock, and to find local services.
- Pharmacist – for advice on common illnesses (inc winter colds), and the best medicines to treat them.
- GP – for medical advice, examinations and prescriptions for illnesses you just can’t shake off.
- NHS Walk-in Centre – for treatment of minor illnesses or injuries, without an appointment.
- A&E or 999 – for critical or life-threatening situations.
For health advice and reassurance 24/7 contact NHS 111 on (dial 111 from your phone)/ or visit the website