People across Sussex are being urged by the local NHS to prepare for winter and be aware of the health risks associated with the colder months.
Last December, according to Met Office figures, was the coldest December in the UK since 1910 and the winter before was the coldest since 1978.
Even in a mild winter, there is a 20% increase in deaths during the winter compared to other times of the year.
The health risks of a cold winter are particularly important for older people, families with young children and people with disabilities or long-term health conditions but everyone can benefit from following some simple tips.
Dr Andrew Foulkes, Medical Director at NHS Sussex, said: “Keeping warm in the winter is important to avoid serious or life-threatening illnesses.
“Wear warm clothing and stay indoors if you don’t need to go outside. Keep your house warm, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessary to heat your whole house, just the main rooms you will use such as your living room and bedroom. Drink hot drinks and have at least one hot meal during the day. Simple steps like this can help us all to stay healthy this winter.”
The advice comes after the recent launch of the government Get Ready for Winter Campaign and as Health Secretary Andrew Lansley this week (1 November ) launched the Department of Health’s first Cold Weather Plan, which aims to help vulnerable people cope with possible severe weather.
Dr Foulkes continued: “It is not just about looking after ourselves when it gets cold, but preparing for those colder months.
“Flu is a common cause of illness during winter, but thousands of people across Sussex can protect themselves very easily by having the free seasonal flu vaccine.
“You can have the free flu jab if you are aged 65 or over, pregnant, have long term health conditions, or if you are the main carer for an older or disabled person.”
Cold weather is serious and claims lives every year. In particular, it can make heart and respiratory problems worse and threatens those in or approaching fuel poverty that are unable to afford to heat their homes adequately.
Dr Foulkes continued: “As we prepare for winter, we should also think about the needs of family, friends and neighbours.
“Winter can be a very lonely time for vulnerable people, especially if they are unwell, and so we would urge everyone to think about people who may be at risk if the temperatures drop. If you can help them by offering them advice on heating, help to prepare for winter, or support to stay well, you could really make a difference over the coming months.”
Choose well if you do become unwell this winter
If you do require medical help it is important to think about what service can best help you quickly and effectively.
Hospitals can become very busy and it is important people use a part of the NHS where they can receive the fastest, most effective and most appropriate treatment for their need.
For genuine emergencies, such as chest pain, people shouldn’t hesitate to call 999.
However, not all injuries or illnesses necessarily require a visit to the local A&E department.
Many problems can be dealt with quickly and efficiently with a visit to the local pharmacist, GP practice, a walk-in centre, minor injuries unit or urgent treatment centre, or by contacting NHS Direct on 0845 4647.
Top Tips to Stay Healthy this winter
People can take the following practical steps to minimise the risks to themselves and others during periods of cold weather:
- Have regular hot drinks and at least one hot meal a day
- Eat regularly to help keep energy levels up during winter
- Keep as active as possible
- Wear several light layers of warm clothes
- Wear appropriate footwear in icy and snowy conditions
- Wrap up warm if you need to go outside - remember your hat, scarf and gloves and always wear strong shoes or boots with grip in slippery conditions
- Check on elderly friends, relatives and neighbours.
- Check medicine cabinet stock levels and that medicines are in date
The “Get Ready for Winter” webpage can be found at www.direct.gov.uk/getreadyforwinter
Your four local NHS primary care trusts (PCTs) have joined forces to become NHS Sussex. The Sussex PCT Cluster represents NHS West Sussex, NHS East Sussex Downs and Weald, NHS Hastings and Rother, and NHS Brighton and Hove.
NHS Sussex is committed to commissioning high quality healthcare services for the people of Sussex. We also support our emerging clinical commissioning groups as they prepare to take on commissioning responsibilities in the future, as well as maintaining relationships with partner organisations.