With icy mornings and colder weather now upon us, the NHS in Sussex is urging people to follow some simple advice to help to stay healthy during the winter months.
Health risks associated with cold weather are particularly important for older people, families with young children and people with disabilities or long-term health conditions but everyone can benefit by following the advice and minimising their risk of becoming unwell.
Seasonal flu jab - the best form of protection
Those in at-risk groups are also being urged not to forget to arrange a free flu jab through their GP.
So far this year less than half of the people with a long term condition in Sussex have gone to their GP and received their free flu jab, and only one out of three pregnant women have had their free jab.
It is available free of charge to people aged 65 or over, all pregnant women, people who have long-term health conditions (such as diabetes, a chest or breathing problem) and anyone who is a main carer.
The NHS in Sussex is also asking people to choose the NHS service which best suits their needs by being aware of the range of NHS services available to them locally.
Cold weather should not be underestimated
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 Yvonne Doyle, the national lead for tackling excess winter mortality and Regional Director of Public Health for NHS South of England, said: “With colder weather now with us it’s important for people to take care of themselves.
"Winter illnesses such as cold, flu and winter vomiting bugs are very common at this time of year. If you can, call-in on neighbours who live alone or need help to offer support – even a trip to the shops can be a lifeline for some people in these cold and slippery conditions.”
“We also want people to “Choose Well”. It’s not always necessary for people to visit their local A&E department or GP surgery. A wide range of problems can be dealt with quickly and appropriately by speaking to a pharmacist, attending a walk-in centre or minor injuries unit or by contacting NHS Direct on 0845 4647.”
People can take the following practical steps to minimise the risks to themselves 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.
- Keep homes at the right temperature - between 18 and 21 degrees C.
- Check medicine cabinet stock levels and that medicines are in date
NHS is prepared but you can help
Every year the NHS prepares well for winter but is urging people to help themselves by familiarising themselves with the wide range of NHS services available to them, and in turn ensuring 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 but remember not all injuries or illnesses necessarily require a visit to the local A&E department or GP surgery.