All of us can take simple steps to look after our health and of others this winter, this includes staying warm, eating well and checking up on vulnerable neighbours. By looking after yourself and those around you, you really will be helping your NHS.
We’ve put together some information on how you can stay well this winter; which includes details about;
- the flu vaccination programme
- norovirus (the winter vomiting bug)
- keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet
- choosing the right NHS service
- self-care; and
- how to look after your mental wellbeing in winter
Having your flu vaccine
Certain groups are at particular risk from flu and vaccination is the best protection we have against an unpredictable virus. That’s why the flu vaccine is free for people who really need it. If you (or someone you care for) fall into one of the following groups, contact your GP practice or local pharmacy for a free flu vaccine:
- adults age 65 and over
- children age 2-3 and in reception classes through to year 5 (delivered as a nasal spray)
- pregnant women
- anyone with an underlying condition such as COPD, bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, spleen problems (like sickle cell), liver disease or a chronic neurological disease like multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy
- anyone with a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medication such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
- anyone who receives a carer’s allowance, or you are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
- frontline health and social care workers
- anyone who has a learning disability and are on their GP learning disability register.
If you don’t fall into one of these groups but would still like a flu vaccine, then call into your local pharmacy – it will cost around £10 for a flu jab for those not eligible for a free one on the NHS.
Find out more about the flu vaccine by visiting the NHS website.
Norovirus – winter vomiting bug
Norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhoea, is commonly referred to as the ‘winter vomiting bug’ and usually goes away in about two days. It is highly contagious so anyone with the virus should avoid going to hospital or visiting their GP, instead you can call your GP or call NHS 111 if you think you need to see a healthcare professional.
Here’s how you can treat diarrhoea and vomiting yourself:
- Stay at home and get plenty of rest
- Drink lots of fluid, such as water and squash – take small sips if you feel sick
- Eat when you feel able to – you don’t need to have or avoid any specific foods
- Take paracetamol if you’re in discomfort
Find out how you can prevent the spreading of the virus, and how to treat diarrhoea and vomiting in children by visiting the NHS website.
Keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet
Don’t let common illnesses and ailments such as coughs, colds, headaches and diarrhoea catch you out over winter. You can be prepared by making sure you have a well-stocked medicine cabinet.
Here are some essential medicines to help people deal with most minor short term ailments are:
- Pain relief – paracetamol and ibuprofen tablets are effective painkillers that can help the odd headache, any minor aches or pains (such as a pulled muscle) and ease fever or cold / flu symptoms. Ibuprofen is also an anti-inflammatory. Remember, if you take ibuprofen, take it with, or after, food and not on an empty stomach.
- Indigestion – for stomach ache, heartburn or trapped wind, antacids will bring relief. They come as chewable tablets, tablets that dissolve in water or in liquid form.
- Diarrhoea – the anti-diarrhoeal remedy, loperamide, can help control the unpleasant symptoms of diarrhoea. Don’t give anti-diarrhoeal medicine to children under 12 because they may have undesirable side effects. Speak to your GP or pharmacist for advice about a child with these symptoms.
- Upset stomach and dehydration – oral rehydration salt sachets can help prevent dehydration from bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea. They help restore the body’s balance of minerals and fluids.
If you’re unsure about what to have in your medicine cabinet, speak to your pharmacist. Or, visit the NHS website for further information about what you should have in your medicine cabinet.
Choosing the right NHS service
Remember A&E is not anything and everything and should only be used for life threatening or serious illnesses or injuries. If you need medical help fast but it’s not an emergency call NHS 111, a fully trained advisor will assess you and, if appropriate, book you in with the right healthcare professional to give you the support you need.
Find out how local services such as GP practices and pharmacies can help you should the weather take its toll. Remember GP practices now offer evening and weekend appointments and most pharmacies are open late during the week as well as at weekends.
Self care is about having the knowledge and confidence you need to take better care when you have common ailments such as sore throats, coughs, etc and to also encourage healthy behaviour which will benefit you in the long term. It’s important for those with long-term conditions to learn how to take control of their own health to avoid complications in the future.
Here are some of the ways that you can self care:
- Having a well-stocked medicine cabinet (anchor to the above info)
- Choosing the right NHS service – visit your local pharmacy who can provide expert, confidential advice and treatment. Best of all, there is no need for an appointment and they will be able to help you by offering advice on treating minor ailments and injuries, give advice on medication and whether you need to see your GP, and help you manage certain long-term conditions
- Activity – Being more active is not only great for your general health but also your mental health too. It’s not about running a marathon but instead walking more or using the stairs instead of a lift. Find out what activities are taking place near you by visiting the One You Leeds website.
- Healthy lifestyle – it’s never too late to switch to a healthier lifestyle and children who learn healthy habits at a young age will benefit from them throughout their life. The most commons ways to improve your health is; eating well, quiting smoking and drinking less alcohol.
Top tips for self care
Here are couple of videos which will give you top tips to help you self care for winter and beyond.
Paula Wright, who has a long term condition (chronic bronchitis), gives her top tips to self care this winter.
Advanced Nurse Practitioner
Sara Lane, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner, gives her top tips to self care this winter.
Looking after your mental wellbeing in winter
It’s important that you look after your mental health this winter. Seasonal Effective Disorder (SAD) is sometimes known as the “winter depression” because the symptoms are usually more apparent and more severe during the winter. The shorter the days over winter means less sunlight which results in a lack of melatonin. The body uses melatonin to help wake us up and people who suffer from SAD produce too much of the hormone, causing lethargy and symptoms of depression. Your GP can offer more information, including things like a light box to help you get more light.
The festive season can also be a very stressful time. Anxieties about money and loneliness are just some of the things that can affect individuals. Here is a short video about mental health at Christmas:
Here are some places which you can go for help and advice:
Remember to try exercising regularly, having a healthy diet, making sure you get enough sunlight (when the sun makes an appearance) and making time to do things you enjoy will help keep you mentally well over winter.