Winter can often bring ill health, especially for older people and those with conditions such as asthma and heart disease. It’s also a time when pregnant women need to consider taking extra steps to protect themselves and their baby from flu and winter viruses.
In this edition we offer some top tips to help you look after your health over the winter months. You’ll find advice on:
· Staying active
· Keeping warm
· Eating well
· Understanding the difference between cold and flu
· Getting the best out of your pharmacist
· Getting your flu jab is probably the best thing you can do to help reduce your chances of catching the dreaded winter flu. It’s still not too late to get a flu jab. For more advice talk to your local pharmacist or have a look on the NHS Choices website for more information.
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As tempting as it might be to use the winter months as the perfect excuse to binge on the latest film release whilst curled up under a nice toasty blanket with a packet of popcorn, staying active is an important part of staying healthy over the winter months. We have lost of green spaces in Warwickshire to enjoy the crisp winter days, without the cost of a gym membership. Locally, we have free park runs every Saturday morning in Leamington and Stratford that are ideal for a family friendly jog to start your weekend.
For a fun way to keep fit, why not take part in the Myton Hospice Santa Dash in Leamington Spa? Taking place on Sunday 10 December at the Pump Room Gardens, this event is the perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit. Participants will take on a 5k run, jog or walk around the Pump Room Gardens and Victoria Park, all to raise funds for our local Myton Hospice. Adult tickets are £15 and children are £5. Each adult will receive a free Santa suit! Myton Hospice are hoping to raise £35,000 from the Santa Dash this year, which would fund the recruitment, training and salary of a nurse for one year.
Exercise this winter doesn’t have to be a run in a Santa suite. Just trying some simple movements will help you stay healthy.
• Try not to stay sitting down for too long. Get up and move around a bit. Any kind of activity gets your circulation going and makes you feel warmer. A walk to shops (as long as it's not too cold) to vacuuming will do.
• If you struggle with walking, just moving your arms and legs and wiggling your toes and fingers will help.
• If it's very cold outside or icy underfoot, it’s probably best to stay active indoors rather than venturing outside.
NHS Choices has lots more advice on exercising in winter.
Keep warm, keep well
Keeping warm means your body temperature stays where it should be (36.5ºC - 37.2ºC) which in turn helps to protect against the effects of the cold outside. So it's important to keep your home warm and to wear warm clothes when you go outside.
Cold weather is a problem because when the temperature drops, some people are at increased risk of heart attack, stroke, flu, pneumonia, falls and injuries and hypothermia. Cold weather can also affect people with mental health conditions, such as depression and dementia.
To help reduce the negative effects of cold weather, follow these tips on keeping well in the cold:
· heat your home to at least 18ºC (or 65ºF) if you can. Sometimes illness can get worse quickly when it’s cold and you may already be under the weather with a cold or cough.
· wear several layers of clothes rather than one chunky layer – clothes made from cotton, wool or fleecy fibres help to maintain body heat
· use a hot water bottle or electric blanket to keep warm in bed – but don't use both at the same time
· have at least one hot meal a day – eating regularly helps keep you warm; and make sure you have hot drinks regularly
· stock up on food and medicines so you don’t have to go out when it’s icy. If you’re not sure what medicines might be best, ask your pharmacist, they’ll be able to help
· try not to sit still for more than an hour or so indoors – get up and stretch your legs
· stay active – even moderate exercise can help keep you warm
· 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, stay indoors during very cold weather
For more advice on keeping warm in the winter see www.nhs.uk/staywell
Confused about cold and flu?
Understanding the difference between cold and flu is an age-old question and one which still eludes most people and because of this uncertainty tens of thousands of Britons book to see their GP in the winter months when a quick trip to the pharmacy would do.
Part of the confusion is caused because colds and flu share some of the same symptoms, such as a cough, sore throat and headache, but each is caused by different viruses.
To help you understand the difference between cold and flu and how best to soothe the symptoms of both click here to read our full article.
Ask your pharmacist for health advice this winter
Visiting your local pharmacist this winter for advice on common health complaints will help family doctors spend more time with seriously ill patients.
If you pop into your local pharmacy you might be surprised to learn about the range of services on offer and the types of medical questions pharmacists can help with.
As well as dispensing prescriptions, pharmacists are there to provide free expert advice on a wide range of health issues including how to treat common complaints such as coughs and colds, flu, sore throats, earache, backache, stomach upsets and cuts and grazes. They also often offer a wide range of additional services including smoking cessation, blood pressure, cholesterol and Body Mass Index checks. Many pharmacies now also offer flu vaccinations.
Many pharmacies are open seven days a week and late into the evening and many will operate over the Christmas and New Year period.
Community pharmacy Christmas and New Year opening times will be published in December at www.england.nhs.uk