Keeping seasonal coughs and colds at bay
Ask your pharmacist what medicines should be in your cabinet and how to help you and your family get through the winter season.
Many over-the-counter medicines (including paracetamol and ibuprofen) are available to relieve symptoms of common winter ailments such as cold, sore throat, cough, sinusitis or painful middle ear infection (earache). Always seek advice from your pharmacist at the first sign of a cough or cold before it gets more serious. You can find out which pharmacies are close to you by visiting www.nhs.uk.
Get a flu jab? - It can protect you all winter. If you have a long term health condition and you catch flu you’re at a greater risk of complications. The flu jab is quick and free for those with underlying health conditions as well as over 65s, pregnant women, children aged 2 and 3, all primary school children and carers and frontline health or social care workers. Ask your GP, pharmacist or midwife about the free flu vaccine.
It is also 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 problems such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression.
Heat your home to at least 18C (65F). 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.
As the days draw in and temperatures drop, you may be tempted to hang up your exercise gear and hibernate. Don't! Stay active throughout autumn and winter to beat those seasonal blues and feel on top of the world. Find out more about exercising in winter at nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/safe-winter-exercise.
Keep active when you're indoors. Try not to sit still for more than an hour or so. Wear several layers of light clothes. They trap warm air better than one bulky layer.
When you’re managing a long term health condition, being active is about finding what works for you. For the first time ever, many of the UK’s leading charities are coming together to inspire and support people with health conditions to be active. For more information, visit weareundefeatable.co.uk.
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 these are operating properly.
Met Office UK weather warnings for rain, snow, wind, fog and ice. Choose your location to keep up to date with local weather warnings.
Make sure that you have enough medication to last when your GP surgery may be closed. It’s important that you book any routine appointments with your practice in plenty of time and ensure that you have enough medication to last you over these times. Don’t use A&E as a back-up pharmacy, plan ahead.
Catch it. Bin it. Kill it.
Almost everyone will have a cough or cold at some point this winter. Don’t spread your germs. Cough or sneeze into a tissue, put it in the bin and wash your hands to stop the spread of germs. It really is that simple. Use symptom relief from the pharmacy and take plenty of rest. Your GP won’t be able to prescribe anything to help.
Look in on vulnerable neighbours and relatives
Check up on older neighbours and relatives, and those with heart or respiratory (breathing) problems, to make sure they:
- are safe and well
- are warm enough, especially at night
- have stocks of food and medicines so they don't need to go out during very cold weather
If you're worried about a relative or elderly neighbour, contact your local council or call the Age UK helpline on 0800 678 1174 (8am to 7pm every day).
If you're concerned that the person may be suffering from hypothermia, contact NHS 111.
Choose the right NHS services
The right NHS services are everywhere – we just need to stop and think – and then choose the right one.
A&E and GP aren’t your only options. You’ll often be seen quicker at other NHS services, so check out NHS.uk for your nearest pharmacy, minor injuries unit or Urgent Treatment Centre. It’s better to do this first, rather than face a long wait in A&E. Alternatively if it’s urgent, but not an emergency, and you’re not sure what to do, call NHS 111 or go online 111.nhs.uk.
Personalised Care Plan?
It’s a good idea for those with a long term condition to have an up-to-date personalised care plan. A care plan will help you manage your condition better – especially during the cold weather. It will also help loved knows know what you to do if you do need medical attention. If you’re not sure if you have a Personalised Care Plan, contact your GP for more information.
Find out more about staying well this winter.