HEALTH AND CARE: How to stay well this winter
Winter can be seriously bad for our health, especially for people aged over 65 and those with long term health conditions.
But there are a number of things you can do to keep you and your family well this winter.
Cold weather doesn’t have to go hand in hand with illness.
Here are some simple things you can do to help yourself stay well this winter.
• Keep warm: cold homes have a significant impact on people’s health. One of the best ways of keeping yourself well during winter is to stay warm.
Keeping warm over the winter months can help prevent colds, flu or more serious health conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression.
The chances of these problems are higher if you’re vulnerable to cold-related illnesses because you’re over 65, on a low income (so can’t afford heating), have a long-term health condition (such as heart, lung or kidney disease), or are disabled.
• Keep your home warm: if you have reduced mobility, are 65 or over, or have a health condition such as heart or lung disease, you should heat your home to at least 18C. It’s a good idea to keep your bedroom at this temperature all night if you can. During the day you may prefer your living room to be slightly warmer. Make sure you wear enough clothes to stay warm.
If you’re under 65 and healthy and active, you can safely have your house cooler than 18C, if you’re comfortable. You can also use a hot water bottle or electric blanket (but not both at the same time) to keep warm while you’re in bed.
• How to fight flu: Flu is a highly infectious illness that can spread rapidly. You may be eligible for a free flu jab if you’re at risk of complications from flu. Find out if you can get the flu jab for free by visiting www.nhs.uk
• Eat well in winter: food is a vital source of energy, which helps keep your body warm. Try to make sure that you have hot meals and drinks regularly throughout the day and keep active in the home if you can.
• Stay active: we all know that exercise is good for your overall health – and it can keep you warm in winter. If you can stay active, even moderate exercise can bring health benefits. If possible, try not to sit still for more than an hour or so. Remember to speak to your GP before starting any exercise plan.
• Wear warm clothes: wrap up warm, inside and out. Wear lots of thin layers – clothes made from cotton, wool or fleecy fibres are particularly good and help to maintain body heat. Wear shoes with a good grip to prevent slips and falls when walking outside. If possible, stay inside during a cold period if you have heart or respiratory problems.
• Help your neighbours in winter: check on older neighbours or relatives to make sure they’re safe and well. Make sure they’re warm enough, especially at night, and have stocks of food and medicines so they don’t need to go out during very cold weather.
• Plan ahead: GP surgeries are under pressure every day of the year and these only increases as winter sets in. Please help support your NHS by using the right services. Plan ahead and order your prescriptions in good time and remember your local pharmacists are there to help and advise as an alternative to your busy and stretched GP.
• Use your local pharmacy: it is an accessible resource for you and your family. Your pharmacist can offer advice or help if you have run out of any prescribed medication. You can also collect medicine for minor ailments or illnesses.
• Make sure you have repeat prescriptions: if you or someone you care for requires medicines regularly, make sure you order and collect repeat prescriptions in good time to ensure you or your family have enough medicine to last over the Christmas holiday period.
Advice and information on how to stay healthy this winter can be found at www.nhs.uk/Livewell/winterhealth
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