Managing minor winter ailments
At the first sign of a winter illness, even if it’s just a cough or cold, get advice from your pharmacist, before it gets more serious.
The NHS has produced We're here to help you stay well this winter, with some important information to help you or a loved one stay well this winter which we have made available on our website.
We hope that people with concerns about winter ailments, carers and families, find this guide useful. Download a copy of We're here to help you stay well this winter, print out this page to give to someone you know.
For more information visit nhs.uk/staywell
Stay well this winter
Winter conditions can be seriously bad for our health, especially for people aged 65 or older, and people with long-term conditions such as COPD, bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, diabetes or heart or kidney disease.
Being cold can raise the risk of increased blood pressure, 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. But there are lots of things you can do to stay well this winter.
Feeling unwell? Don’t wait – get advice from your nearest pharmacist
At the first sign of a winter illness, even if it’s just a cough or cold, get advice from your pharmacist, before it gets more serious. Act quickly.
The sooner you get advice from a pharmacist the better. Pharmacists are fully qualified to advise you on the best course of action.
This can be the best and quickest way to help you recover and get back to normal.
If you can’t get to a pharmacist yourself, ask someone to go for you or call your local pharmacy.
Make sure you get your flu jab
The flu virus strikes in winter and it can be far more serious than you think. Flu can lead to serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and it can be deadly.
That’s why the flu jab is free if you’re aged 65 or over, or if you have a long-term health condition.
If you have young children or grandchildren they may also be eligible for a free flu vaccination.
And if you are the main carer of an older or disabled person you may also be eligible for the free flu jab. Just speak to your GP or pharmacist.
Also, don’t forget that if you’re aged 65 or over, you are eligible for the pneumococcal vaccine, which will help protect you from pneumococcal diseases such as pneumonia. Ask your GP.
It is important to keep warm in winter – both inside and outdoors. Keeping warm over the winter months can help to prevent colds, flu and more serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression.
Heat your home to at least 18°C (65°F)
You might prefer your main living room to be slightly warmer.
Keep your bedroom window closed on winter nights
Breathing cold air can be bad for your health as it increases the risk of chest infections.
Keep active when you’re indoors
Try not to sit still for more than an hour or so.
Wear several layers of light clothes
Several layers trap warm air better than one bulky layer.
Make sure you’re receiving all the help that you’re entitled to
Learn how to make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating and keep up with your energy bills at gov.uk/phe/keep-warm
And check your heating and cooking appliances are safe
Contact a Gas Safe registered engineer to make sure they’re operating properly. Visit gassaferegister.co.uk
Check your medicine cabinet
Ask your pharmacist what medicines should be in your cabinet to help get you and your family through the winter season.
Many over-the-counter medicines (including paracetamol and ibuprofen) are available to relieve symptoms of common winter ailments, such as colds, sore throat, cough, sinusitis or painful middle ear infection (earache).
So talk to your pharmacist for advice on getting the relief you need.
To manage winter illness symptoms at home, you should rest, drink plenty of fluids, have at least one hot meal a day to keep your energy levels up and use over-the-counter medications to help give relief.
Make sure you get your prescription medicines before your pharmacy or GP practice closes for Christmas.
And, if you’ve been prescribed antibiotics or any other medication, make sure you take them as directed.
You can also order your repeat prescriptions via the NHS App, as well as make GP appointments. Available now in the App Store and on Google Play. For more information visit nhs.uk/nhsapp
Look out for other people
Remember that other people, such as older neighbours, friends and family members, may need a bit of extra help over the winter. There’s a lot you can do to help people who are more frail than you.
Icy pavements and roads can be very slippery and cold weather can stop people from getting out and about. Keep in touch with your friends, neighbours and family and ask if they need any practical help, or if they’re feeling under the weather.
Make sure they’re stocked up with enough food supplies for a few days, in case they can’t go out. If they do need to go out in the cold, encourage them to wear shoes with a good grip and a scarf around the mouth to protect them from the cold air, and to reduce their risk of chest infections.
And make sure they get any prescription medicines before the Christmas holidays start and if bad weather is forecast.
If they need help over the holiday period when the GP practice or pharmacy is closed or they’re not sure what to do, NHS 111 can help. The service is available online at 111.nhs.uk and also by phone. By answering questions about their health problem they will be told what to do and where to go. You can also find information at nhs.uk
Five things we recommend you do:
- Make sure you get your flu jab.
- Keep your home at 18°C (65°F) or higher if you can.
- Take advantage of financial schemes and discounts to help you pay for heating.
- Visit your local pharmacist as soon as you start to feel unwell with the symptoms of a respiratory winter illness.
- Look out for other people who may need a bit of extra help over the winter.
Download a copy of We're here to help you stay well this winter.
For more infomation about staying safe, healthy and warm during the winter months, read our guides on preparing for severe wintry conditions and the flu vaccination.
Please exercise your common sense when considering this guide and whether to take any of the steps that may be suggested in it. Whilst we have taken reasonable care to ensure that any factual information is accurate and complete, most of the information in this guide is based on our views and opinions (and sometimes the views and opinions of the people or organisations we work with). As a result, we cannot make any promises about the accuracy or the completeness of the information and we don’t accept any responsibility for the results of your reliance on it.