There are a lot of really simple steps you can take to make sure you’re looking after your physical and mental health over the winter period.
Self-care, and knowing the most appropriate place to go when you feel unwell will help you avoid the queues at GP surgeries and A&E, and remain independent for longer.
Get Stocked Up
It can be a good thing to check your medicine cabinet to see what essentials you have in, just in case you start to feel unwell.
The last thing you want is to be dashing out in the snow to your local pharmacy, to get what you desperately need, only to discover it closed.
So at the very least you should have these essentials in your medicine cabinet:
- Plasters and sterile dressings
- Antiseptic cream
- Pain killers e.g. paracetamol and ibuprofen
- Distilled water (to clean wounds & use as eye wash)
Below is some advice when taking care of yourself at home
Sickness and Diarrhea
This is a common illness in winter and symptoms usually improve after two or three days. Don’t go to your doctor just drink plenty of water, rest at home and let it run its course. Contact your GP for advice if symptoms don’t go away.
Winter sprains and strains
Mild to moderate sprains and strains, bumps and bruises can be treated at home. The pain should improve after four days of treatment. This can include resting the injured joint or muscle, applying ice wrapped in a damp towel to the affected area, raising the injured area on a pillow to reduce swelling and taking paracetamol for the pain.
There is no quick way to get rid of a cough that’s caused by a viral infection. Coughs caused by the common cold or flu usually clear within 2 weeks. Your pharmacist will be able to give you advice and over the counter medicines to help with the symptoms but if your cough doesn’t go away or gets worse after a few weeks see your GP.
Colds cause unpleasant symptoms like stuffiness, runny nose, sore throats and headaches. Antibiotics are not effective against colds so please don’t pressurise your GP for them. You can help relieve your symptoms with over the counter medicine such as paracetamol. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids.
Contact your GP if your child’s temperature is:
- 38c or higher (under 3 month old)
- 39c or higher (3 to 6 month old)
- Over 37.5c with other signs of illness
Earache can be a sharp, dull or burning pain that’s either constant or comes and goes. Using over the counter painkillers and placing a warm flannel against the ear may help. Your pharmacist can recommend eardrops for earache but discuss all the symptoms with them first.
One of the best ways of reducing your risk of becoming ill is to keep yourself warm both when you’re indoors and if you have to venture out.
Cold homes have a real impact on people’s health so keep your home heated to at least 18c, although during the day you may prefer you’re living room to be slightly warmer. Make sure to keep your curtains and doors closed to block out any cold draughts.
If you can’t heat all the rooms you use, heat your living room during the day and your bedroom just before you go to bed.
It’s a good idea to keep your bedroom at 18c all night, if you can, and don’t have your bedroom window open for fresh air especially when it’s very cold. You can also use a hot water bottle for that extra bit of warmth.
During the day wear lots of layers of thin, loose-fitting clothing, rather than one chunky layer, because the layers will trap your body heat and help keep you warm.
Obviously stay indoors if you can but if you do have to go out, dress up warmly and wear gloves, a hat and shoes with good grip to prevent slips and falls.
Having at least one hot meal and plenty of hot drinks throughout the day is another good way of making sure you stay warm so it’s best to check you have enough food in to see you over a cold spell.
Keeping active will also help stay warmer. If you are mobile, make sure that you don’t sit still for more than an hour or so at a time – just getting up and making yourself a hot drink will do the trick.
Get the right help for your energy bills
Make sure you’re receiving all the help you are entitled to. Learn how to make your home more energy efficient and take advantage of financial schemes to keep up with energy bills. See Keep Warm, Keep Well for details.
You can also check your heating and cooking appliances are safe and operating properly by contacting a Gas Safe registered engineer.
For more information on how to stay well this winter visit www.nhs.uk/staywell