Ask Dr Trisha...How do I stay healthy this winter?
Many older people, especially those with long-term health conditions, rely on some help from their partner, family or friends. Carers are often a lifeline, playing a vital role which keeps people independent and able to live in their own home – often the best place to be!
So whenever a new patient arrives on my hospital ward I always try to talk to those people involved in looking after them. This isn’t just to update them on what has been happening but to get a better picture of how they themselves are managing. I want to check if they are well and coping with the responsibility, to see if they might need some extra help, and to remind them just how important they are! If you’re a carer read on for some tips for you and your loved ones on how to stay healthy this winter.
Keep a good supply of fuel
It’s January and there are still lots of bugs doing the rounds so protect yourself and the person you are caring for by keeping the home warm – a minimum of 18°C unless you prefer the living room slightly warmer. Check you have a good supply of fuel such as coal or logs if you use these, and find out whether you are entitled to financial benefits to pay for your heating at www.gov.uk/phe/keep-warm. Keep wrapped up with lots of thin layers of clothing, both at home and especially if you are braving the cold and wind to go outdoors.
Act fast if feeling unwell
At the first sign of a cough, cold or sore throat, whether it is you or the person you are looking after, talk to your pharmacist about medicines to reduce the impact of symptoms. Your pharmacist is the best first port of call if you, or the person you’re caring for, is feeling unwell as they can offer the best advice for treatment. Make sure you, or the loved one you care for, also speak to the pharmacist about medicines to stock up on to help get everyone through the winter season. Keep well hydrated and take simple pain relief such as paracetamol if needed. Finally if you, or the person you are caring for, starts to feel under the weather, even it is just a cough or a cold, get advice from your pharmacist before it gets more serious.
Talk to your pharmacist about medicines
Now the long holiday period is over, life may be settling into the old routine, but it’s going to be a couple of months before the weather starts to get warmer and the daylight hours longer.
Cold temperatures, indoor and out can be very harmful, especially for people aged 65 or older: it weakens the immune system, increases blood pressure, thickens the blood and lowers body temperature, increasing risks of high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and chest infections.
Look after yourself too!
No matter how old or young we are, we all feel the stress of the cold and dark winter months. So if you are a carer, and no-one else is asking you, then perhaps your New Year resolution should be to ask yourself every day “am I doing everything I can to look after myself to be sure I stay well enough to do this essential but often tiring work?”
The Stay Well This Winter campaign can help you and your family prepare for winter. Visit nhs.uk/staywell for more details.