Winter needn’t be the unhealthiest time of year for you and your family. Although colds and flu may start to circulate in the community, there are lots of things you can do to keep yourself healthy and well.
Below are some steps you can take yourself to help prevent illness, self-care for minor ailments and becoming a Winter Hero!
Winter and Coronavirus
As we continue to battle with the Coronavirus (Covid-19), it is important to be mindful that winter is prime time for viruses to spread due to us spending more time indoors. Be sure to continue to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, maintain social distancing and the latest government restrictions and guidance. Click here to visit the Government website.
Just as we are avoiding catching Coronavirus, this time of year is rife for catching colds and flu. Remember, if you have symptoms of Coronavirus, you must stay at home and book a test:
The symptoms of Coronavirus are:
a high temperature
a new, continuous cough
a loss of, or change to, your sense of smell or taste
Carers are people who are in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an older or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill may get it for free too. Speak to your GP or pharmacist about it. Click on the NHS Choices website for more information. The best time to have your flu jab is in October/ November.
Flu is very infectious and spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours. To reduce the risk of spreading flu, use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands often with warm water and soap, and bin used tissues as quickly as possible. Catch it. Bin it. Kill it.
How to stop the flu
Help stop the spread of flu this winter. Cough and sneeze into a tissue and wash your hands thoroughly. Watch this video to find out the best way to wash your hands.
Common childhood health issues
During the colder months many children suffer with common but often treatable conditions which can worsen if not treated correctly.
It is normal to feel anxious when your child is ill. Sometimes their illness is obvious – they may have visible symptoms such as a runny nose. At other times it isn’t as easy to identify the problem even though you know your child best and can spot if something is wrong. Most illnesses such as sore throats and ear ache get better by themselves but it’s important that parents know what to do if their child is unwell and how to recognise the signs.
The new NHS Essex Child Health app has been designed to give parents, grandparents and carers across Essex NHS advice at their fingertips, to help look after their children’s health and recognise when they are unwell.
Many illnesses can now be treated at home with lots of rest and over-the-counter medicines. The NHS Essex Child Health app offers handy advice on some of these most common childhood illnesses, as well as helping you to understand when it’s better to chat to your school nurse, visit a local community pharmacist or GP, or to
call NHS 111.
Health conditions covered within the app include:
• Coughs, colds and flu
• Diarrhoea and vomiting
• Chicken pox and measles
• Ear ache and tonsillitis
• Wheezing and breathing difficulties including bronchiolitis and asthma
• Headlice and threadworms
• Bumps, bruises and accidents
Information on mental health and wellbeing, healthy lifestyles and advice on some more serious conditions like meningitis and sepsis are also covered. And there’s a handy section on when you might want to consider keeping your child home from school.
The app is free to download for both Android and Apple. Just search for “NHS Essex
Here’s a guide to three common childhood health issues that parents can use to self-treat, visit their GP, or call NHS111 and know what to do in an emergency. Download a copy of the information advice sheets for the 3 illnesses now:
At the first sign of a cough or cold, get immediate advice from a pharmacist before it gets worse. Pharmacists are expert healthcare professionals who can give advice and recommend treatments for minor health conditions such as coughs, colds, sore throats and childhood fever.
Keep on top of your prescriptions
Think about any medicines that you or your family may need during the winter months and make sure you have enough.
Extended access to GP surgeries
Everyone registered at a GP practice in Essex can now book GP-led appointments at a wider range of times: on Saturdays and Sundays, over bank holidays and later into weekday evenings. Find out more at your local GP practice.
Prolonged periods of cold weather can be dangerous, especially for the very young, very old or those with long term conditions. Here are some tips to stay warm and well:
1. Heat your home well
By setting your heating to the right temperature (between 18-21ºC) you can still keep your home warm and lower your bills. If you feel cold at night, use a hot water bottle or electric blanket – but never use both together. It is especially important if you’re at home all day.
Essex energy switch
The Essex Energy Switch is a scheme you can sign up to and receive cheaper energy tariffs. Register with the energy switch scheme to see if you can save money on your household energy bills.
Warm home discount and grants from your local authority
If you’re struggling to afford your energy bills, you might be able to take advantage of certain benefits, grants and help offered by the government and energy suppliers, you may be eligible for a Warm Home Discount.Visit your local authority’s website for grants and assistance available in your area such as loft and cavity wall insulation. Keep warm booklet for the Braintree district
Make sure your home is well-insulated will make it easier and cheaper to heat your home efficiently. Consider cavity wall insulation or loft insulation. The government’s Green Deal scheme or the Green Homes Grant may help you to do this.
2. Wear sensible clothing when outdoors
Wrap a scarf loosely around your mouth when outdoors – add a hat and wear shoes with a good grip, too. If you have a heart or respiratory problem like asthma or COPD, stay indoors during very cold weather – check #Scarfie for more top tips. Have a look at patient videos to help you with COPD.
3. Look after yourself and others
On especially cold or icy days try to avoid going outside. However, if you do need to go out, remember to wrap up warm and take care on slippery surfaces – wear sensible footwear with a good grip.
If you have an older neighbour or relative, look out for them during the winter to make sure they are safe and well such as offering to go the shops for them and ensuring their home is warm enough.
If you’re worried about a relative or elderly neighbour you contact your local council or call the Age UK helpline on 0800 678 1174 (8am-7pm every day). If you’re concerned that the person may be suffering from hypothermia you should contact NHS 111. Also more advice from NHS Choices.
4. Eat well
Food is a vital source of energy and keeps your body warm. Start the day with a warm and hearty breakfast like porridge. Have hot meals and drinks regularly & stock up. For advice on how to eat well this winter, see our ‘balanced diet‘ page.
5. Keep active and get outdoors
We all know that exercise is good for your overall health – and it can help keep you warm in winter. If you can stay active, even moderate exercise can bring health benefits. If possible, try not to sit still for more than an hour or so. Have a look at our livewell activities across Essex for inspiration.
Daylight is good for boosting the immune system and preventing low mood, so try to get as much natural sunlight as possible. Move about in the house if the weather really is too bad to get out. If you really can’t get out, try to make your home as light as airy as possible and sit near the window.
There are plenty of at home workouts you can do with little to no equipment.
Dark nights and cold can stop people from getting out, which can lead to feeling low, lonely and isolated. Try to keep in touch with your support network, even if it’s just over the phone, as well as following the tips above. Even if you don’t suffer from these issues, it’s important to keep an eye out for others, especially elderly neighbours. See what’s happening every week in Essex to keep you busy and active.
Colchester’s strategic partnership, One Colchester launched its 2020-21 Winter Resilience campaign to help those in need stay safe, warm, well and connected this winter.
Thanks to partnership working, funding and community spirit, this project continues to provide advice and support through the One Colchester initiative delivering roadshows in the community and distributing winter packs to those affected by the cold weather, including families on low incomes, people living with respiratory conditions and long-term health conditions.
Please donate warm clothing, especially coats, hats, scarves, gloves and blankets
To find out about the winter resilience campaign please call: 01206 505250
The Winter Resilience project has been funded by North East Essex Health and Wellbeing Alliance and supported by donations in kind from Waitrose
The Community and Voluntary Services (CVS)aim to prevent and respond to crisis, support clients most at risk to access a benefits check and provide minor home improvements. This can include emergency heating, food, clothing, home visits, and transport. Visit their website to contact your local CVS in Essex.
If you are particularly vulnerable during cold weather because of health problems or a disability then you can apply to go on the Priority Services Register. People listed on this register will receive special attention in the event of a power cut.
8. Staying safe
Do you want to find out how to keep your home, family and personal belongings safe this winter? Visit the Essex Police website for their top five safety tips for a number of main crimes that are committed around this time of year and follow the conversation on Twitter #LetsTalkAboutCrime.
Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is commited to ensuring all the Essex have a working smoke alarm. They carry out home safety visits to anyone living in Essex, completely FREE of charge, book yours now.
9. Be prepared
Visit your local authority’s website for advice about flooding and severe weather warnings.