Don’t fall head over heels this winter

The Met Office has issued a warning to people across Yorkshire and Humber that from today (Thurs) there is a strong likelihood of average temperatures below 3°C for 72 hours and a widespread risk of ice or snow.

Keeping yourself warm is an essential part of keeping healthy - especially for the very young, older people, or those with a chronic illness. 

The NHS is urging people to stay well this winter, as well as to look out for other people who may need a bit of extra help during the colder months. Slips, trips and falls also all become more likely during wet, cold and icy weather conditions.

Winter 2016 - take care out there

If you have a lung disease; kidney or heart disease; diabetes; another long term health condition; or suffer from breathlessness, cold weather can make you more likely to catch a winter illness that could become very serious. So even if it’s just a cough or a cold – seek advice from your pharmacist before it gets more serious.

Dr Aamer Khan, clinical lead for urgent care at NHS Bradford City Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “It’s critical that we all do what we can to help others stay well this winter. We are appealing to our local communities to look out for neighbours and relatives and ensure they get the help they may need.”

“We are urging people to look after themselves and others this winter and importantly, to be aware in advance of where to go for urgent health help and advice - whether that’s a pharmacy, GP or, in an emergency, A&E.”

The elderly will be in the largest age group admitted to hospital this winter. Half live alone and one third never or only occasionally socialise with family or friends. As a result, they will often be slow to seek help.

Keeping warm over the coming winter months can help prevent colds, flu or more serious health conditions. Homes should be heated to at least 18°C (65F) if possible. If you start to feel unwell, even if it’s just a cough or a cold, then get help from your pharmacist quickly before it gets more serious – especially if you are already living with a long-term health condition. 

“During this cold spell we’d like to encourage residents to look out for those who may be living alone, check in with neighbours and take weather conditions into account when planning to travel. If people have elderly neighbours or relatives then they should remember to check on them during the cold weather, to make sure they are safe and well and that they have enough stocks of food and medicine so that they don’t need to go out in the cold weather.”

“Help and advice is available from pharmacies for minor illnesses, we would encourage people to use these services before seeing GP and A&E departments,” added Dr Khan.

Top tips to prepare for colder weather:

  • look out for friends and family who may be vulnerable to the cold and ensure they have access to warm food, drinks and are managing to heat their homes adequately
  • try to maintain indoor temperatures to at least 18°C, particularly if you are not mobile, have long term illness or are 65 or over
  • stay tuned for weather forecasts, ensure you are stocked with food and medications in advance (have deliveries or ask a friend to help)
  • take weather into account when planning your activity over the following days
  • avoid exposing yourself to cold or icy outdoor conditions if you are at a higher risk of cold-related illness or falls
  • discuss with friends and neighbours about clearing snow and ice from in front of your house and public walkways nearby, if unable to do so yourself.

There are many different ways that people can help themselves to get the right treatment and allow busy NHS services to help the people who need them most.

The options are:

  • self-care: look after yourself at home with a well-stocked medicine cabinet
  • pharmacist (chemist): for expert advice on common illnesses and the best medicines to treat them
  • GP (doctor): for illnesses that just won’t go away, arrange to see your doctor
  • call 111: if you need urgent healthcare, contact NHS 111 which will help you access the local service that can help you best
  • NHS Choices: www.nhs.uk is the UK’s biggest health website, containing a range of information to help you look after yourself and your family
  • A&E or 999: only if you need very urgent medical attention.

NHS 111 is available free of charge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week (including bank holidays) by dialling 111.