Winter health

Winter brings with it icy conditions, illnesses, festivities and colder and darker nights. Get ready for winter and ensure you stay safe and healthy this winter by following advice.

Stay Well This Winter

The return of the cold weather doesn’t necessarily mean more illnesses. Here are some simple things you can do to keep yourself well.

  • Stay warm – might sound obvious but staying warm during cold winter spells can help prevent colds, flu or more serious health conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and pneumonia.
  • Eat well – try to avoid unhealthy comfort food, healthy food is a great source of energy which will help you keep warm and help you get the nutrients and vitamins needed to stay well.
  • Get a flu jab – flu vaccination is offered free of charge to people who are at risk, pregnant women, carers and some young children to ensure that they are protected against catching flu and developing serious complications.

Get more help and advice by visiting the Stay Well This Winter website

Common winter illnesses

Colds are common this time of year and there is no magic cure, the best thing to do is drink plenty of fluids and get some rest. If you catch a cold you can prevent it by washing your hands thoroughly, cleaning surfaces regularly and always sneezing and coughing into tissues and then throwing them away after use. Find out more about treating colds.

Flu can be life threatening, which is why if you’re over 65 or have a long-term health condition such as diabetes or kidney disease it’s best to get help early and to get a flu jab. If you’re generally fit and healthy it’s best to stay warm, rest and drink plenty of fluids. Find out more about flu.

When you have a cold or flu, antibiotics are not for you!
Without effective antibiotics many routine treatments will become increasingly dangerous. Setting broken bones, basic operations, even chemotherapy all rely on access to antibiotics that work. That is why this winter we are working with our colleagues across the city to remind people that antibiotics are not for you for more general illnesses. See how you can help.

Sore throats
A sore throat is mainly because of a viral infection such as a cold. You can ease your sore throat by not eating or drinking anything too hot and stick to cool or warm drinks and cool, soft foods which should go down easier. Some sore throats can be caused by bacteria and these are often accompanied by a fever or if symptoms don’t improve within a week. Find out more about sore throats and when to seek medical  help.

With winter often comes norovirus – or the winter vomiting bug as it’s commonly known. With no cure the only thing to do is let it run its course, however, you can help limit the effects and speed up recovery by drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration. You can also take paracetamol for any aches, pains or fever. It is highly contagious so anyone with the virus should avoid going straight to hospital or visiting their GP and instead get telephone advice from NHS 111. You can help prevent the spreading of the virus by following advice from NHS Choices.

For many cold weather is an asthma trigger – this means that during winter their asthma is worse and are vulnerable to asthma attacks. Continuing your regular preventer medication as well as covering your nose and mouth with a warm scarf when you’re out will help. More tips are available on NHS Choices.

A well-stocked medicine cabinet will help you deal with minor illnesses and ailments
Don’t let minor illnesses and ailments such as coughs, colds, headaches and diarrhoea impact your Christmas and New Year by making sure you have a well-stocked medicine cabinet. 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.
  • Blocked nose – menthol and eucalyptus inhalations ease the nasal congestion that comes with coughs and colds.

To help you treat minor cuts, sprains and bruises then make sure you have an home first aid kit which includes:

  • Plasters (various sizes),
  • Tweezers – for removing splinters
  • Antiseptic – can be used to clean cuts before they’re dressed (bandaged) and most can treat a range of conditions including insect stings, ulcers and pimples. You can get antiseptics as creams, sprays or wipes. Alcohol-free antiseptic wipes are useful to clean cuts.
  • Surgical tape and a few dressings – useful for treating minor scrapes and cuts.
  • Thermometer – digital thermometers that you put in your mouth produce very accurate readings; a thermometer placed under the arm is a good way to read a baby or young child’s temperature
  • Eyewash solution – this will help wash out grit or dirt in the eyes

Winter guides

To help you we have provided some information below including self-help guides so that you can stay healthy over winter and know what to do if you are affected by some of the more common ailments expected this time of year.

These handy guides can help you for a range of minor health concerns that can happen over winter:

For more information and advice visit the winter health pages on NHS Choices.

Keep up to date with the latest weather forecast

Children, people with long term conditions and older people are more likely to experience problems in cold weather so it’s important to be prepared for cold and icy weather. The Met Office has a system in place to alert people when there is likely to be any extreme weather that could have an impact on their health as well as providing information. You can access the latest weather warning on alerts on the Met Office website or by following them on Twitter (@MetOffice).

Choosing the right NHS service

Remember A&E is not anything and everything and should only be used for life threatening illnesses or injuries. Before you consider going to A&E why not call NHS 111 who can give you the advice and support you need.

Find out how local services such as GP practices and pharmacies can help you should the weather take its toll.

‘Not quite an emergency’ film raising awareness of NHS 111

Comedian Dom Joly, best known for Trigger Happy TV, and NHS Brighton and Hove CCG have teamed up to prank the unsuspecting public to help raise awareness of the NHS 111 helpline. The free, 24 hour number is to be used when you need medical help fast but it’s #notanemergency.