Winter conditions can be seriously bad for our health, especially for people aged 65 or older, and people with long term conditions such as asthma, diabetes, bronchitis, and heart or kidney disease.
The cold and damp weather, ice, snow and high winds can 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.
Common winter illnesses:
- Colds – You can prevent colds by washing your hands regularly which will kill the bug. If you do get a cold, catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue, throw the tissue away and wash your hands to avoid spreading the germs. Use ibuprofen or paracetamol to ease aches and lower temperature and speak to your local pharmacist.
- Sore throat – These are common in winter and almost always caused by a viral infection. To avoid getting a sore throat keep warm and wash your hands regularly to help prevent the spread of germs. To treat a sore throat, drink plenty of water – but avoid hot drinks - rest, use ibuprofen or paracetamol and speak to your local pharmacist. One quick and easy remedy for a sore throat is to gargle with warm salty water. Dissolve one teaspoon of salt in a glass of part-cooled boiled water. It won't heal the infection, but it has anti-inflammatory properties and can have a soothing effect.
- Norovirus – An extremely infectious stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea and can spread very easily. Washing your hands frequently with soap and water is the best way to stop it spreading. You can usually treat yourself or your child at home. The most important thing is to have plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, stay at home and get plenty of rest. To avoid the infection spreading further wash dirty clothing and bedding separately on a hot wash and clean toilet seats, flush handles, taps, and surfaces every day. Stay off school or work until the symptoms have stopped for two days.
- Painful joints – Cold weather can make painful joints worse for some people. Exercising regularly is ideal to boost a person’s mental and physical state and can also relieve joints feeling tight, stiff and uncomfortable.
- Dry skin – This is common over the winter period when environmental humidity is low. Drinking plenty of water and moisturising is essential during winter.
For more information on common winter illnesses click here: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/10-winter-illnesses/
How you can stay well over the winter period:
Make sure you get your flu jab- the flu virus strikes in winter and it can be far more serious than you think. It is FREE if you’re aged 65 or over, or if you have a long-term health condition. If you have young children or grandchildren they may also be eligible for a free flu vaccination. Find out more information here: nhs.uk/getflujab
Keep warm – 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. If you’re not very mobile, are 65 or over, or have a health condition, such as heart or lung disease, try to heat your home to at least 18C (65F). You may be able to claim financial and practical help with heating your home – find out more here https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/keep-warm-keep-well/
Check your medicine cabinet – Ask your pharmacist what should be in your medicine cabinet to help get you and your family through the winter season. Many over-the-counter medicines (including paracetamol and ibuprofen) are useful to have ready to relieve symptoms of colds, sore throats, coughs or earache.
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. Make sure they are stocked up with enough food supplies for a few days, in case they can’t go out and are warm enough.
Manage winter symptoms at home - Rest, drink plenty of fluids, try to have at least one hot meal a day to keep your energy levels up, use over-the-counter medications to help give relief when you need it.
Be prepared - Make sure you get your prescription medicines before your pharmacy or GP practice closes for Christmas.
Your child's health:
If you are a parent, carer or somebody that looks after children, click here to download our free, full colour “Your child’s health”.
Your child’s health is packed with useful tips and advice on how to look after your child safely at home, and when you should check with your pharmacist, NHS 111, GP, or other clinician.
Help others know how to look after themselves over winter
If you are part of a community group, social forum or would just like to share this information with friends and neighbours, we have a range of resources you can use.