Cold weather can be very harmful, especially for people aged 65 or older: it weakens the immune system, increases blood pressure, thickens the blood and lowers body temperature, increasing risks of high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and chest infections.
If you have a long-term health condition like: COPD; bronchitis, emphysema; diabetes; heart or kidney disease or have suffered a stroke, cold weather can make health problems like these far worse.
There a number of things you can do to keep you and your family well this winter:
- Don’t put off getting the flu vaccination. If you’re eligible get it now. It’s free because you need it. You need to have the flu vaccination every year as the vaccine protects against different strains of flu which can change and/or evolve each year.
- It is important to keep warm in winter, both inside and outdoors as it can help to prevent colds, flu and more serious health problems, such as heart attacks, strokes pneumonia and depression. Heat your home to at least 18°C (65°F), if you can, you might prefer your living room to be slightly warmer.
- If you start to feel unwell, at the first signs of symptoms of winter respiratory illness even if it is just a cough or cold, don’t wait until it gets more serious, get help from your pharmacist. The sooner you get advice the better – pharmacists are here to help you stay well this winter.
- If you’ve been prescribed antibiotics or other medication, don’t forget to pick up your prescription before the Christmas holidays start. Many GPs and pharmacies will close over the holidays.
- If you do need help over the holiday period when your GP surgery or pharmacy is closed, visit www.nhs.uk or call NHS 111 who can direct you to a local service that is open.
- Older relatives, neighbours, friends and other elderly members of the community are more vulnerable in the winter months. Giving a bit of extra support during the cold weather can help them Stay Well This Winter.
- The Stay Well This Winter campaign can help you prepare for winter. Visit nhs.uk/staywell for more information.
Is A&E right for me?
If you are unwell during the winter, there are lots of places you can go for medical advice and help. The emergency department (A&E) is for emergencies only. Please use it carefully so that people with the most life-threatening and serious conditions can be seen without delay.
Generally, you should only visit A&E or call 999 for emergencies, such as:
- loss of consciousness
- acute confused state and fits that are not stopping
- persistent, severe chest pain
- breathing difficulties
- severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
If an ambulance is needed, call 999.
Alternatives to A&E
If your condition is not an emergency there are alternative services that you can access closer to home:
Minor ailments and injuries can often be treated at home, by a combination of over-the-counter medicine and plenty of rest. Keep a first aid kit and a well-stocked medicine cabinet (always keep medicines out of the reach of children).
The NHS Choices website www.nhs.uk contains information on how to treat a range of common conditions.
The guide Self care information about children can be downloaded from the local clinical commissioning group (CCG) website at::
Visit a pharmacist
Visit your local pharmacist when you have a common health problem that does not need to be seen by a nurse or doctor. Your pharmacist can give you confidential advice on illnesses and the medicines you need to treat them.
In each local area pharmacies generally open in the evening and at weekends on a rota basis – check your local paper for details.
Feeling under the weather this winter? Find out the symptoms of common winter illnesses and understand your treatment options at: http://www.nhs.uk/staywell
Call your GP surgery
Call your GP surgery if you need medical advice, examinations or a prescription. Make an appointment with your local GP when you have an illness of injury that will not go away.
For repeat prescriptions, always contact your regular GP.
In an emergency, a GP can also visit your home outside of normal opening hours – if you need this service, telephone your local surgery and follow the recorded instructions.
Attend the local minor injuries unit at Orsett Hospital, RM16 3EU
If your injury is not serious, you can get help from the minor injuries unit (MIU), at Orsett Hospital rather than going to A&E.
An appointment is not necessary.
The unit is open from 10am to 7.30pm, Monday to Sunday
(Closed at 6.30pm on last Thursday of each month for team meeting. Closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day)
Minor injuries units can treat:
- sprains and strains
- broken bones
- wound infections
- minor burns and scalds
- minor head injuries
- insect and animal bites
- minor eye injuries
- injuries to the back, shoulder and chest