The arrival of autumn brings a glorious display of colour as nature prepares for colder weather. But it’s also a useful warning of the seasonal challenges that we all face too. Preparing for the cold and damp of winter becomes even more important as we get older, when one illness can lead to a long line of other problems. In the medical world we often describe it as the domino effect. An infection leaves you weak and wobbly, resulting in immobility or a fall, and then perhaps a hospital admission, secondary infections and so on, bit by bit your health falls down and it can be very hard to get it back. Read on for some tips that can not only help you stay healthy but also combat illness.
Stay warm this winter
Being cold can raise the risk of high blood pressure, blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. The cold and damp weather, ice, snow and high winds can all aggravate any existing health problems and make us more vulnerable to respiratory winter illnesses. Ensure you stay warm indoors by heating your home to at least 18°C, if you can. You might prefer your living room to be warmer. Make sure your bedroom windows are closed at night and if you have to go outdoors, wear several layers of light clothing as heat is trapped between each layer.
Get help sooner than later
If you start to feel unwell, even if it’s just a cough or cold, then get advice from your pharmacist before it gets more serious. Rest, take plenty of fluids and treat symptoms with simple painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, which help to combat fever. If things start to get worse, see your GP before it gets very serious.
Watch out for loved ones
Keep an eye on elderly relatives or neighbours, to help them stay well in the colder weather. Keep in touch and ask if they need any practical help, or if they’re feeling under the weather.
Protect yourself against flu
Flu can be serious for those aged 65 or over, or those with long-term health conditions. It can lead to pneumonia and other serious complications which may land you in hospital. The free flu vaccine is available to people in these groups including people who care for someone elderly or disabled. So don’t put it off – It’s free because you need it.
- The Stay Well This Winter campaign can help you and your family prepare for winter. Visit nhs.uk/staywell for more details.