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The cold and damp weather, ice, snow and high winds can all aggravate any existing health problems and make us more vulnerable to respiratory winter illnesses. But there are lots of things you can do to stay well this winter.

If you feeling under the weather you can also visit: urgentoremergency.co.uk for more general health information and to advise what you can do to ease symptoms. It also features a search for your nearest GP, Pharmacist or Dentist - if this is required. Another useful website with further resources is the Self Care Forum here.

Posted on Wednesday 2nd October 2019

People living in north Cumbria are being urged to get their flu vaccination and take steps to keep themselves well over the winter months and help protect themselves, their family and friends from the virus.

Flu is an extremely contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza A or B viruses. It is an unpredictable virus that can cause mild illness in most people but some people are more likely to develop potentially serious complications of flu such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

Patients in at risk groups who are eligible to receive a free flu jab from their GP include:

- everyone aged over 65
- women who are pregnant
- those aged six months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups including patients who suffer from a chronic illness, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease  (COPD), kidney disease, hepatitis, Parkinsons, HIV and diabetes
- children aged two or three years old (on 31 August of current flu season), all primary school-aged children and children with a health condition that puts them at a greater risk of flu
- those in long-stay residential care homes
- carers



Dr Helen Horton, Distington GP, said: 

“We are encouraging people to get their flu jab. Even if you had your jab over the last winter period, you will need to have one again, because flu changes every year.

“The flu jab is a simple procedure which could ultimately save lives. You shouldn’t wait until there is a flu outbreak and you should get the vaccination as soon as possible, especially if you are in an ‘at risk’ category.”

 

Studies have shown that flu vaccinations will help prevent people from getting flu. The flu vaccine is available every year to protect adults, and some children, at risk of flu and its complications. It provides protection against strains of flu that are predicted to circulate each year, as these strains may be different from previous years.

Although the vaccine won't stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary from person to person. If you do get flu after vaccination it is likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it otherwise might have been.

Again this year, a more effective vaccine is also being given to those aged 65 and over, which is proven to give better protection against flu for people of this age. This ‘adjuvanted’ vaccine is expected to significantly boost effectiveness by improving the body’s immune response to the vaccine. This is important because typically, older adults’ bodies do not respond as well to the flu vaccine due to their naturally weaker immune systems. Older adults are also more likely to suffer complications from flu.

For most children the flu vaccine is a quick and easy nasal spray. Children aged 2 and 3 receive the vaccine through their GP and children reception and school years 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 receive it in school. If you have a child who is of the eligible age, make sure you sign the consent form allowing them to have the flu vaccine at school. The nasal spray may also be available for people with learning disabilities.



Dr Horton added: “The option of the nasal vaccination is available for children, ensuring that they are protected with this painless and effective process.

“Real flu can be debilitating and if you are already living with a condition, you are either very young or very old it can hit you harder. 

All NHS staff and frontline health and social care workers are also encouraged to get the vaccination which will help to protect patients, colleagues and their families.

“It is also important to remember that flu is highly infectious and can spread rapidly in closed environments so people with symptoms should avoid visiting locations such as hospitals, schools and care homes.”



Many GP Surgeries also run special flu clinics to offer people more opportunities to receive the flu jab - Contact your GP Surgery to find out the dates of any planned clinics.

Local Pharmacies also offer the flu jab and this is again free for patients in the eligible at risk groups.

Cold weather can often cause symptoms of illness, but many of them can be tackled by taking some simple steps and by visiting your local pharmacy. Here are some other simple tips to help you stay well this winter.

- Keep warm – If you have reduced mobility, are 65 or over, or have a health condition such as heart or lung disease, you should heat your home to at least 18C.

- If you have elderly relatives please make sure they are drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

- If you need medical advice you can call NHS 111 for free 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A free child health app is also available to download on your mobile to offer advice for looking after your child’s health. The NHS guide has been specifically designed for parents and carers of children aged 0-5 years. The app was designed by hospital specialists, doctors, health visitors and pharmacists to provide lots of useful hints and tips. Search for ‘NHS Child Health’.

Keep up to date with news, advice and information from the NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group on social media through Facebook at: facebook.com/nhscumbriaccg and on Twitter at: twitter.com/NHSCumbriaCCG

For more information on flu, visit the NHS website at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/flu

Top tips to help you stay well this winter - snowman graphic
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Children - Flu vaccination - information poster - 5 reasons to give child flu vaccination

- Make sure you get your flu jab.

- Visit your local pharmacist as soon as you start to feel unwell with the symptoms of a respiratory winter illness.

- Keep your home at 18°C (65°F) or higher if you can.

- Take advantage of financial schemes and discounts to help you pay for heating.
 

- Look out for other people who may need a bit of extra help over the winter.        

At the first sign of a winter illness, even if it’s just a cough or cold, get advice from your pharmacist, before it gets more serious. Act quickly.

The sooner you get advice from a pharmacist the better. Pharmacists are fully qualified to advise you on the best course of action.

This can be the best and quickest way to help you recover and get back to normal.

If you can’t get to a pharmacist yourself, ask someone to go for you or call your local pharmacy.

The flu virus strikes in winter and it can be far more serious than you think. Flu can lead to serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and it can be deadly.

That’s why the flu jab is free if you’re aged 65 or over, or if you have a long-term health condition.

If you have young children or grandchildren they may also be eligible for a free flu vaccination.And if you are the main carer of an older or disabled person you may also be eligible  for the free flu jab. Just speak to your GP or pharmacist. You can also find more information at: www.nhs.uk/getflujab

Also, don’t forget that if you’re aged 65 or over, you are eligible for the pneumococcal vaccine, which will help protect you from pneumococcal diseases such as pneumonia. Ask your GP.

It is important to keep warm in winter – both inside and outdoors. Keeping warm over the winter months 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).

You might prefer your main living room to be slightly warmer.

Keep your bedroom window closed on winter nights. Breathing cold air can be bad for your health as it increases the risk of chest infections.

Keep active when you’re indoors. Try not to sit still for more than an hour or so.

Wear several layers of light clothes. Several layers trap warm air better than one bulky layer.

Make sure you’re receiving all the help that you’re entitled to. Learn how to make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating and keep up with your energy bills at: www.gov.uk/phe/keep-warm

And check your heating and cooking appliances are safe. Contact a Gas Safe registered engineer to make sure they’re operating properly. Visit: www.gassaferegister.co.uk

Ask your pharmacist what medicines should be in your cabinet to help get you and your family through the winter season.  Many over-the-counter medicines (including paracetamol and ibuprofen) are available to relieve symptoms of common winter ailments, such as colds, sore throat, cough, sinusitis or painful middle ear infection (earache).

So talk to your pharmacist for advice on getting the relief you need.

To manage winter illness symptoms at home:

• Rest
• Drink plenty of fluids
• Have at least one hot meal a day to keep your energy levels up
• Use over-the-counter medications to help give relief.

Make sure you get your prescription medicines before your pharmacy or GP practice closes for Christmas.

You can also order your repeat prescriptions online. To sign up to GP online services ask at your practice or to find out more visit: nhs.uk/GPonlineservices

And, if you’ve been prescribed antibiotics or any other medication, make sure you  take them as directed .

Remember that other people, such as older neighbours, friends and family members, may need a bit of extra help over the winter. There’s a lot you can do to help people who are more frail than you.

Icy pavements and roads can be very slippery and cold weather can stop people from getting out and about. Keep in touch with your friends, neighbours and family and ask if they need any practical help, or if they’re feeling under the weather.

Make sure they’re stocked up with enough food supplies for a few days, in case they can’t go out. If they do need to go out in the cold, encourage them to wear shoes with a good grip and a scarf around the mouth to protect them from the cold air, and to reduce their risk of chest infections.

And make sure they get any prescription medicines before the Christmas holidays start and if bad weather is forecast. If they need help over the holiday period when the GP practice or pharmacy is closed, call NHS 111 and speak to a call adviser who will be able to direct you to a local service that is open. You can also find information at: www.nhs.uk