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Winter health advice

Cold weather doesn't have to go hand in hand with illness. Here are some simple things you can do to help yourself stay well this winter.

  • Keep warm – this may help prevent colds, flu or more serious health conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and pneumonia.
  • Eat well – food gives you energy, which helps to keep you warm. So, try to have regular hot meals and drinks throughout the day.
  • Get a flu jab – flu vaccination is offered free of charge to people who are at risk, pregnant women, carers and some young children to ensure that they are protected against catching flu and developing serious complications.
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Common winter illnesses

  • Colds – to ease the symptoms of a cold, drink plenty of fluids and try to rest. Steam inhalation and vapour rubs can also help. Prevent colds from spreading by washing your hands thoroughly, cleaning surfaces regularly and always sneeze and cough into tissues, throwing them away after use.
    Find out more about treating colds
  • Sore throats – a sore throat is almost always caused by a viral infection, such as a cold. Try not to eat or drink anything that’s too hot, as this could further irritate your throat; cool or warm drinks and cool, soft foods should go down easier.
    Find out more about treating sore throats
  • Asthma – a range of weather-related triggers can set off asthma symptoms, including cold air. Covering your nose and mouth with a warm scarf when you’re out can help.
    Find out more about treating asthma
  • Norovirus – this is also known as the winter vomiting bug, although it can cause diarrhoea too. The main thing to do to is drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. You can also take paracetamol for any aches, pains or fever.
    Find out more about treating norovirus
  • Flu – if you’re 65 or over, have a long-term health condition such as diabetes or kidney disease, flu can be life-threatening, so it’s important to seek help early. However, if you’re generally fit and healthy, the best treatment is to rest, stay warm and drink plenty of water.
    Find out more about treating flu
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Getting help

If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Ask your pharmacist

Pharmacists are expert in many aspects of healthcare and can offer advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughs, colds and stomach upsets. You don’t need an appointment and many have private consultation areas, so they are a good first port of call. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.

See your family doctor

GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical procedures. Your GP will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.

Visit an urgent care service

Visit a walk-in centre, minor injuries unit or urgent care centre if you have a minor illness or injury (infections, vomiting and stomach aches) and it can't wait until your GP surgery is open. These urgent care services are often managed by nurses and some also have doctors. You don't need an appointment and they are open outside office hours.

Accident and Emergency

A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as loss of consciousness, suspected heart attacks, breathing difficulties, or severe bleeding that cannot be stopped. If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

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