Stay Well this Winter
The winter months can be challenging for many Surrey residents, and add more pressure to NHS services during periods of extreme weather. Cold weather can make some health problems worse and even lead to serious complications, especially for those aged 65 and over, or if you have a long-term health condition. Even for those in full health, winter can bring with it coughs, colds and flu bugs.
Stay healthy and well this winter and be prepared using the advice below. Seek help when needed using the most appropriate local NHS services listed below, and stock your medicine cabinet with the essentials to keep you and your family well this season.
Getting the flu vaccination is a great way of protecting yourself from flu this winter, especially for those who are at a greater risk of developing potentially serious complications. It's also the most effective way of reducing the spread of the virus with those we come into contact with, helping ensure Surrey residents stay fit and well this winter.
The flu vaccination is available every year on the NHS to help us all against the risk of flu and its complications, and for many Surrey residents, it is completely free if you fall into one of the 'at risk' groups below.
Who should consider having a flu vaccination:
- Adults 65 and over
- Pregnant women
- Children & adults with an underlying health condition (such as long-term heart, respiratory disease or severe asthma, (see a full list on the NHS website).
- Children aged 2 and 3 on 31 August 2020
- Primary school-aged children
- Year 7 secondary school-aged children
- Those with a learning disability and their carers
- A household contact of someone on the NHS Shielded Patient List
- Those living in a residential or nursing home
- A frontline health or social care worker
- The main carer of an older person or disabled person (Action for Carers provide more information on the Surrey Carers flu voucher scheme).
Later in the year, the flu vaccine may be given to people aged 50 to 64. More information will be available later in the autumn.
I had my flu jab last year, do I need it again?
Each year, different strains of flu virus circulate in the community as the virus is very adaptable. The World Health Organisation predicts the likely flu viruses needed in the vaccine using information from flu strains circulating in the Southern Hemisphere earlier in the year. The vaccine is produced over the summer months, ready to be used in the UK during autumn. While not always perfect, the flu vaccine is one of the best defences we have against catching the flu.
Where can I get my free flu jab?
If you're eligible for a free flu vaccination, you can have it at:
- Your GP surgery
- A local pharmacy offering the service
- Your midwifery service if they offer it for pregnant women
Most community pharmacists now offer flu vaccination to adults (but not children) who are at risk of flu, including pregnant women, people aged 65 and over and people with long-term health conditions.
Help us help you by speaking with your local pharmacy team about minor health concerns before they get worse. They can help with clinical advice for all sorts of illnesses there and then, and if your symptoms suggest it's something more serious, they have the right training to ensure you get the help you need. It may also save you lots of time by receiving advice and treatment on the spot, without the need to go to your GP or A&E.
Get help early, if you are feeling unwell, don't wait, go to your nearest pharmacy.
Why visit the pharmacy?
Pharmacists are qualified healthcare professionals with the clinical know-how to give you the help you need. They can assess your minor illness and recommend the right treatment, whether it's over the counter medicines, a few days rest or a bit of reassurance.
What can pharmacists help with?
They are the right people to see for minor health concerns such as:
- Sore throats
- Coughs, colds and flu
- Tummy troubles
- Aches and pains
- Red eyes
- Sleeping problems
- Athlete's foot
- Mouth ulcers
- Constipation and diarrhoea
You can talk to the pharmacist or pharmacy technician in your local pharmacy. Most people live within easy reach of one, and with many now offering longer open hours, it's easier to get the help and advice you need, without having to book an appointment.
Think you need medical help right now? Go straight to NHS 111, which is available on the phone and online. NHS 111 online is conveniently accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
NHS 111 is there for when you need medical help fast but it is not a life threatening emergency.
How NHS 111 works:
You will be asked questions about your symptoms on the website or by speaking to a trained adviser on the phone. Depending on the situation, you will then:
- Find out what local services can help you
- Be connected to a nurse, emergency dentist, pharmacist or GP
- Get a face to face appointment if you need one
- Be told how to get any medicine you may need
- Get self-care advice
Most common winter ailments, such as a cold, sore throat, cough, sinusitis or earache, can't be treated with antibiotics.
The best thing to do is:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Have at least one hot meal a day to keep your energy levels up
- Talk to your pharmacist for advice on getting any pain relief you need such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
What should I keep in my medicine cabinet at home?
|Medicine or first aid||What it's used for|
|Paracetamol and ibuprofen||Effective at relieving most minor aches and pains such as headaches period pain, inflammation in arthritis and sprains|
|Oral rehydration solution||Fever, diarrhoea and vomiting make us lose water and essential minerals, and can lead to dehydration. If you have these symptoms and can't continue your normal diet, oral rehydration salts can help to restore your body's natural balance of minerals and fluid and relieve discomfort and tiredness. They don't fight the underlying cause of your illness, such as a virus or bacteria.|
|Antacids (comes in chewable tablets, or tablets that dissolve in water, or in liquid form)||We normally over indulge during the festive period and this can bring stomach ache, heartburn or trapped wind. A simple antacid will reduce stomach acidity and bring relief.|
|First aid kit:- Bandages- Plasters- Thermometer- Antiseptic- Eyewash solution- Sterile dressings- Medical tape- Tweezers||These are some of the main items that should be in your first aid kit. If you have small children – you should keep a thermometer and children's paracetamol handy, and take with you if you take trips or breaks away. |
If you have any queries, your local pharmacist can advise you further on which medicines you should have in your cabinet to help get you and your family through the winter season.
Make sure you have repeat prescriptions
If you or someone your care for requires medicines regularly, make sure you order and collect repeat prescriptions in good time to ensure you or your family have enough medicine to last over the festive period and bank holidays.
Look in on vulnerable neighbours and relatives
Check on older neighbours and relatives, and those with heart or breathing (respiratory) problems, to make sure they:
- are safe and well
- are warm enough, especially at night
- have stocks of food and medicines so they do not 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 1602 (8am to 7pm every day).
- If you're concerned that the person may be suffering from hypothermia, contact NHS 111.
Keep your home warm
Follow these tips to keep you and your family warm and well at home:
- if you're not very mobile, are 65 or over, or have a health condition, such as heart or lung disease, heat your home to at least 18C
- keep your bedroom at 18C all night if you can – and keep bedroom window closed
- if you're under 65, healthy and active, you can safely have your home cooler than 18C, as long as you're comfortable
- use a hot water bottle or electric blanket to keep warm in bed – but do not use both at the same time
- have at least 1 hot meal a day – eating regularly helps keep you warm
- have hot drinks regularly
- to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), babies should sleep in rooms heated to between 16C and 20C
- draw curtains at dusk and keep doors closed to block out draughts
- get your heating system checked regularly by a qualified professional
Action Surrey provide information and advice on how to keep a home warm and any grants that may be available for replacement boilers and insulation.
Age UK Surrey provide information to help people stay safe, warm and well in the winter. This includes money saving tips and further advice on benefits and grants, advocacy and counselling.