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Winter can be bad for your health – are you ready for it?

With the clocks going back and the darker nights drawing in, winter is just around the corner and it is the time to start planning for the colder months ahead.

Winter can be challenging, especially for those aged over 65 and people who are not otherwise fit and well. However, there are a number of things we can all do to help prepare ourselves for the cold weather and to ward off some of those common winter illnesses.

Dr Rakesh Pathak, local GP and unplanned care lead with North East Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said one of the most important steps is to protect against flu by getting your flu jab.

Those over 65, pregnant women, children aged 2-4 and in school years 1 and 2 and people with long-term health conditions can receive this free from their GP or pharmacist. You can also get a free flu jab if you get a carer’s allowance or are the main carer for an elderly, or disable person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill.

Dr Pathak explained that flu is an unpleasant illness, but otherwise fit and healthy people will usually recover from it within a week.

“However, some people are more likely to develop potentially very serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia,” said Dr Pathak. “We strongly advise them to take up the offer of a flu jab each year. This is really important if you have a long-term health condition yourself but also if you are the carer of someone who relies on you to take care of them and can’t afford you to fall ill.”
Many common winter illnesses such as coughs, colds and even flu cannot be treated with antibiotics so if you are otherwise fit and healthy there is no need to book an appointment with your GP.

Instead, most people can treat themselves successfully at home. Your pharmacist will be able to advise you about medicines you should have in stock to help get you and your family through the winter season. Just remember to always tell your pharmacist if you are taking other medication – either from your doctor or over the counter.

If you are aged over 65 or have a long term health condition, you should seek immediate advice from your pharmacist if you start to feel unwell, even if it is just the start of a cough or cold. You can also visit http://www.nhs.uk/staywell/ for health advice.

If it’s during the evening or on a weekend and the pharmacy is closed or you think you may need to see a doctor, you can call the Single Point of Access 24/7 on 01472 256256.

“Don’t wait until it gets worse, the sooner you get advice the better – your local pharmacist can give you lots of advice to help you stay well this winter,” said Dr Pathak. “A third of elderly people never or only occasionally socialise with family or friends. As a result, they can be slow to seek help and once ill, often get too unwell. Keeping an eye out for elderly relatives and neighbours and supporting them in the cold weather can help them Stay Well This Winter.”

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