The Stay Well this Winter campaign aims to get people, especially those with long-term conditions and those over 65, prepared for winter in a bid to ward off common winter illnesses.
Cold weather can be very harmful, especially for people age 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.
For those with COPD; bronchitis, emphysema; diabetes or heart and kidney, cold weather, and winter illnesses such as flu, can make health problems like these far worse.
There are a number of things which can help people prepare against the cold weather:
At the first sign of a cough or a cold get help from your pharmacist before it gets more serious and make sure you speak to your pharmacist about medicines you should have in stock to help get you and your family through the winter season
· If you do need help out of hours when your GP surgery or pharmacy is closed, call NHS 111 or visit www.nhs.uk who will be able to provide advice or arrange for you to see the on call out of hours doctor
· 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.
Professor Sarah O’Brien, Interim Clinical Accountable Officer said: "We are asking everyone to get ready for winter and visit their local pharmacist at the first sign of illness. Pharmacies can offer a wide range of services to help you get better quicker when common illnesses such as coughs and colds or stomach bugs strike.
"Also, remember the needs of friends, relatives and neighbours who could be at risk. Many people who are particularly vulnerable to the cold, older people, those with underlying health conditions, pregnant women and those with young children, are not aware that by not keeping warm they may be putting themselves in danger."
*Top advice to keep warm and well this winter:*
· Keep warm and healthy by keeping rooms heated to at least 18C
· Don't put off getting the flu vaccination. If you're eligible get it now. It's free because you need it
· Look out for friends, relatives and neighbours who may be vulnerable to the cold
· Stay tuned to the weather forecast and plan ahead with supplies
· If you meet the criteria register for priority service with your energy and water suppliers
· Have regular hot meals and drinks throughout the day and keep active to help you stay warm
· Get financial support to make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating or help with bills
· Have your heating and cooking appliances checked regularly
· Wear a few layers of thin clothing rather than one thick layer, and when you need to go outside wear shoes with slip resistant, good grip soles