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Seasonal Health

Stay Well This Winter

Winter Health

NHS Stay Well campaign

The NHS have launched their 'Stay Well this winter campaign'.

You will find information about flu vaccinations, keeping warm, winter illnesses and winter tiredness. as well as a wide range of resources to help you stay well over winter

More information on Stay Well this winter here

Keeping warm helps you to keep you well. If you do not keep warm, you may have problems with breathing which could lead to a serious chest infection.

Keep healthy this winter

Illness can affect you at any time of year but there are a few complaints which are associated with the cold weather.

The good news is that there are steps you can take to make sure you avoid, or reduce your experience of, the most common seasonal ailments.

Get a Flu jab

Flu is a highly infectious illness that spreads rapidly through the coughs and sneezes of people who are carrying the virus. Some people are more at risk of complications from the flu virus, such as pneumonia and bronchitis. If you're classed at being at risk make sure you have your annual flu vaccine. They are available from September onwards from your GP or pharmacy.

If you are at risk of complications from flu, you may be eligible for a free flu jab if you are:

  • aged 65 and over
  • aged six months to under 65 in clinical risk groups (with a long term health condition)
  • pregnant
  • aged two, three or four years old
  • in long stay residential care homes
  • a carer

If you are a health care or social worker, check the arrangements with your employer to see if you are eligible for the vaccine as it is recommended that front line workers are vaccinated every year against the flu.

If you are unsure if you qualify for the free flu jab, contact your GP.

Coping with a cold

Colds and the flu virus are different things. A cold isn't just a mild version of flu. Colds can be unpleasant and inconvenient but flu can be dangerous, particularly for the very young, old or people with some existing conditions.

However, the symptoms of colds and flu are very similar. According to the NHS, you may experience:

  • blocked or runny nose
  • sore throat
  • headaches
  • cough
  • sneezing
  • pressure in your ears and face
  • loss of taste and smell
  • a high temperature or fever
  • muscle aches and pains
  • exhaustion and the need to lie down

Treating a cold

Antibiotics do not work on colds and you do not need to see your GP unless:

  • You have had your symptoms for around three weeks
  • Your symptoms suddenly get worse
  • You have a fever
  • You have an existing chronic condition.

Your pharmacist can help you feel treat the symptoms, or you can buy many cough and cold remedies from shops and supermarkets.

Additionally you should:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Stay hydrated
  • Keep warm
  • Eat light, nutritious meals

Catch it, kill it, bin it

Help prevent the spread of colds and flu by always using tissues, throwing them away immediately and washing your hands well.

Tips for staying well in winter

Staying healthy over winter can be a challenge for anyone, especially for those that manage a long term condition or have a weakened immune system such as, young children, pregnant women and the elderly.

Tips for a healthier winter

  • Drink plenty of fluids: water will help keep you hydrated
  • Eat your five a day: hot vegetable soups and stews are a great way to keep you warm and healthy
  • Add moisture to the air in your house with a humidifying device
  • On cold days: when outside, breathe through your nose and wrap a scarf around your face, it will help warm the breathed in air which may save you a few coughing spells
  • Avoid colds: if others have a cold, try to avoid them as their germs are airborne
  • Keep your nose clean: blow your nose as often as required. Your nose works overtime in the winter months by trapping dust and germs
  • Keep Active: if the weather gets too bad to exercise outside, walking around the house, climbing the stairs and cleaning the house all count as exercise.
  • Avoid dust: replace the air filters if you have a central heating system and dust frequently, especially where dust can gather in hard to reach places
  • Keep a healthy weight: during winter months, try and stay at or below your ideal weight
  • Consider the flu vaccine
  • Stay away from smokers: be aware that smoke from someone else’s cigarettes can be irritating and as harmful to you as if you were smoking.

You can't avoid every illness over the cold weather, but you can be prepared and manage whatever comes your way. Keep a basic medical kit stocked with supplies for the most common ailments such as cold and flu remedies, cough medicine and throat lozenges and you won't have to wait to start treating the symptoms.

It's also a good idea to keep stocked up on non perishable food and household essentials, so that if you do become ill, you don't have to venture out into the cold.

Keep Warm this Winter

The cold weather can affect your health, particularly if you have a long-term condition so it's important to try and keep yourself and your home warm.

Some people are more at risk from the cold, including the elderly, very young and disabled people.

Get warm and stay warm

Whether you are going out or staying at home there are simple things that you can do to get warm and then hang on to that heat as long as possible.

Wear Layers

You may have heard this many times, but that's for a simple reason. It works! The layers trap warm air between them meaning you have your own insulation. If you're going out, you should aim for at least three layers. Next to your skin you want light, soft clothing such as a long sleeved t-shirt.

Next you need something warm like a woolly jumper and lastly a good water and windproof coat. If you do have to go out and you don't have a waterproof jacket, make sure you change clothes and dry off as soon as possible if you get wet. You cool down much quicker when you are wet and prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can cause illnesses such as hypothermia.

Don't forget to layer up other clothing too. You can put thick socks over a thin pair and wear leggings or lycra sports trousers under jeans or looser trousers.

Wrap up well

Getting the layers right is one thing but you also need to cover up the other parts that are likely to feel the chill too.

You can pick up hats, scarves and gloves for relatively low cost and they are great at stopping the wind getting in through gaps in your coat, or keeping your ears and fingers warm.

It's especially important to keep your hands from getting too cold as this can cause extreme discomfort as well as making it difficult to use them if you need to tie shoelaces, or perhaps look for change while you are out and about.

Take the heat with you

Before you go out it's a good idea to pre-warm your gloves, hat and boots. Put them on a radiator or near a radiator for a few minutes before you go out (taking care that it's safe to do so) and your head, hands and feet will be toasty warm before you even go out.

If you're going to be out for a while you can keep snug by taking something to help keep you warm. Many shops sell low cost hand and feet warming pads that can be either single use or reusable. They are usually room temperature but when 'snapped' heat up. You can slip them in your gloves, pockets or shoes for instant heat.

You could also take a flask with a hot drink or soup in. As well as warming your hands, this will give you energy and warm you from the inside out.

Keeping your Home Warm

You should aim to keep your main living room at around 18-21°C (65-70°F). If you can’t heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room during the day (or when you are using it) and the bedroom just before you go to sleep, and an hour before you wake up.

You can also use a hot-water bottle or electric blanket (but not both at the same time) to keep warm while you're in bed.

There are lots of ways you can keep your home warm and keep out the drafts this winter, and many of them are inexpensive and easy to do.

You can do things such as:

  • Put silver reflective foil behind your radiators
  • Fill gaps in windows and doors
  • Close the curtains when it gets dark
  • Close the doors and vents in rooms you don't use
  • Use throws or lap blankets when sitting
  • Move furniture away from radiators

You can find many resources on keeping your home warm while keeping costs down online. We've included a few in the 'External Links' section.

Help with Heating Costs

You may be able to claim financial and practical help with heating your home. Grants available include the -

  • Winter Fuel Payments
  • Cold Weather Payments
  • Northern Powergrid Priority Care Register
  • The Energy Saving Trust

Winter Fuel Payments

Winter Fuel Payments of up to £300 are available if you were born on or before 5 July 1952.

More infomration on Winter Fuel Payments

Alternatively, you can contact them via - 

  • telephone: 08007 310 160 
  • textphone: 08007 310 464

    Cold Weather Payments

    Cold Weather Payments may be available to you if you receive certain benefits or have a child who is disabled or under the age of five. To find out more about Cold Weather Payments contact Jobcentre Plus

    More information on Cold Weather Payments here

    The Energy Saving Trust (EST)

    The Energy Saving Trust (EST) has advice on how to reduce bills and make your home more energy efficient. They can also advise on grants and schemes available around the UK. 

    More information on the EST here

    Alternatively, you can contact them by telephone on 03001 231 234 (Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm and Saturday 10am to 2pm).

    Northern Powergrid Priority care register

    Northern Powergrid has a priority care register. By registering you will become a priority member which means that you will get the support guidance you need during a power cut.

    As a priority services customer, the Powergrid Care team will make sure you receive extra help and peace of mind if there is a power cut.

    Register here to become a priority member

    Alternatively, you can telephone them on 0800 169 2996

    Hull Warm Zone

    Hull Warm Zone is a not for profit partnership with Hull City Council, National Energy Action and nPower. We can provide help to reduce the cost of keeping warm by providing grants, advice and support.

    Home owners and private tenants can access funding for the following types of house improvements -

    • cavity wall insulation
    • loft insulation
    • central heating systems
    • boiler replacements
    • external wall insulation

    For free installations you need to -

    • live in a qualifying postcode area
    • are in receipt of qualifying benefits
    • have long term health conditions which are caused or exacerbated by the cold

    Contact them to discuss your eligibility and for a free no obligation assessment. 

    If you live in a council property they can flag up issues with our housing department on your behalf and provide advice and support.

    Installing energy saving improvements significantly help towards reducing costs and improving warmth within your home but they can also refer you to free services from a large range of partners that can provide additional support.

    You can request a home visit from a trained assessor to assess your household needs. They will then apply for any grant funded improvements and referrals we think you may be eligible for.

    They can also offer -

    • benefit checks
    • referrals for - financial advice, tariff switching and fuel poverty assessments
    • meter reading, heating programmer set up, understanding your energy bills and avoiding damp and condensation
    • fuel debt advice and support
    • fuel poverty vouchers – for install of gas supply (domestic only)
    • community energy purchasing and money saving clubs
    • thermal image reports

    More infomration on Hull Warm Zone here

    Alternatively you can contact the them on -

    (Freepost address)

    Hull Warm Zone

    FREEPOST NEA15165

    HU1 3BR

    Staying Safe in Summer

    There are a lot of risks and accidents associated with the summer months from sunburn, heat stroke, dehydration, insect bites and water based incidents.

    Heat stroke and exhaustion

    Heat exhaustion is when a person feels fatigue due to a drop in blood pressure which is caused by a loss of body fluids and salts after being exposed to heat for a long period of time.

    Signs of someone with heat exhaustion may be feeling sick and nauseated, faint and sweating heavily.

    A person who is experiencing heat exhaustion should be taken to a cool place and given water to drink, after a few hours they should start to feel better. If a person with the above symptoms ignores them, heat exhaustion may develop into heat stroke.

    Heat stroke is a more serious condition and happens when the body’s temperature becomes too high due to excessive heat exposure.

    The body is no longer able to cool itself and begins to overheat. The signs are; cramping (especially in the legs) this is due to the body losing salt and electrolytes, fatigue, red, hot and dry skin, thirst, fast pulse, throbbing headache, confusion, dizziness and nausea.

    Avoiding heat exhaustion and heat stroke - 

    • Stay ultra-hydrated; water is good for keeping you hydrated but drinks with added electrolytes like PowerAde are useful because they help replace salt and retain fluid
    • Know the signs!
    • If possible avoid the mid-day sun (between 11am and 2pm)
    • Wear sunblock and keep topped up throughout the day and always reapply when in and out of the water
    • Remove yourself from the heat if you start to feel too hot; moving into the shade or having a cool shower/bath or damping your skin with cool water using a flannel/towel will help you cool down if you over heat.

    If you suspect that you or someone you know is experiencing heat stroke do not delay in seeking medical help.

    Barbeques and cooking safety

    If you are cooking on the barbeque , the two main risk factors are:

    1. Undercooked meat
    2. Spreading germs from raw meat onto food that is ready to eat (cross-contamination)

    This is because raw or undercooked meat can contain germs that cause food poisoning such as salmonella, E. coli and campylobacter. However, these germs can be killed by cooking meat until it is piping hot throughout.

    Cooking meat on a barbeque:

    When you’re cooking any kind of meat on a barbeque, such as poultry (chicken or turkey), pork, steak, burgers or sausages, make sure:

    • You always wash your hands after touching raw meat
    • Use separate utensils (plates, tongs and chopping boards) for cooked and raw meat
    • The coals are glowing red with a powdery grey surface before you start cooking, as this means that they’re hot enough
    • Frozen meat is properly thawed before you cook it
    • Never wash raw chicken or other poultry before cooking as this increases the risk of spreading campylobacter bacteria
    • Don’t put raw meat next to cooked or partly cooked meat on the BBQ
    • Don’t put sauce or marinade on cooked food if it has already been used with raw meat
    • You turn the meat regularly and move it around the barbeque to cook it evenly

    Remember that meat is safe to eat only when - 

    • It is piping hot in the centre
    • There is no pink meat visible
    • Any juices are clear

    Don’t assume that because meat is charred on the outside that it will be cooked properly on the inside, always check before you eat or serve by cutting the thickest part of the meat and ensure none of it is pink on the inside.

    Safety in and around water

    Children are fascinated by water, it’s fun, keeps them cool and is great exercise but anyone can drown and even the best supervisors and carers can get briefly distracted, and all it takes to drown is three minutes face-down in water.

    Children between two and six are particularly at risk of drowning in ponds and paddling pools. Between five and ten children a year drown in a garden pond and in 2012, 18 children under the age of 15 drowned in the UK.

    If you have a pond and a toddler the best thing to do is fill the pond in with sand to make a sand pit. Otherwise, cover it with a substantial grille or put a fence around it.

    At villas with a pool check the following:

    • Does the pool have a lifeguard or pool attendant? A pool attendant is only responsible for keeping the poolside clean, rather than ensuring safety in the water
    • Does the pool have a barrier? Having a fence is particularly important at villas if you have younger children.
    • Open water is generally where older children and teenagers are most at risk from features near to their homes such as rivers, lakes and coastal water near to the shore. Have an early conversation about how to stay safe and the risks of colder, open water. Even the strongest swimmer can be affected by cold water shock which affects the ability to control breathing which can lead to gasping, panic and in the worst cases, drowning. Cold water shock can start at 15°C and the average temperature of the sea around Britain in 12°C.
    • Avoiding drinks while engaging in activities such as swimming is a good place to start for ensuring a safe summer (Research shows that half of all water recreation deaths of teens and adults involve the use of alcohol) 
    • Ensuring your child can swim is another great way to ensure they’ll be safe in and around water. More information around swimming lessons for your children can be found here

    Summer Sun

    Sunlight contains two types of ultraviolet radiations; UVA and UVB. It is the exposure to these rays than can lead to damage on the body.

    UVB rays are mainly responsible for burning the skin whereas UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply and are associated with ageing of the skin (wrinkling, leathering, sagging and other light-induced effects of ageing).

    Sunscreens vary in their ability to protect your skin from UVA and UVB and no sunscreen is perfect. Following the important tips below will help ensure you help your skin stay healthy, youthful and burn free - 

    • Regardless of the sunscreen strength, reapply it to your skin at least every two hours. Reapply more often if in and out of the water and or playing sports
    • Reddening of the skin is a reaction to UVB rays only, damage by UVA may be well underway without you knowing so follow other sun safety procedures such as covering up or removing yourself from the sun between 11 and 3pm.
    • Wear a good quality sunscreen at least an SPF 15.
    • Check the ingredients to make sure it covers for UVB and UVA.
    • Everyone over the age of six months should wear sunscreen on a daily basis regardless of whether the sun is out. Children under the age of six months should be kept out of the sun as their skin is still too delicate.

    Insects and ticks

    An insect bite or sting often causes a small lump to develop which is usually very itchy. A small hole, or the sting itself may also be visible.

    The lump may have an inflamed (red and swollen) area around the bite that may be filled with fluid.
    Insect bites are common in the summer months and usually come from one of the following insects - 

    • Midges, mosquitos, gnats
    • Fleas
    • Horseflies
    • Bedbugs
    • Ticks
    • Mites
    • Spiders
    • Wasps and hornets
    • Bees

    More information on signs and symptoms of insect and tick bites here

      Last reviewed: 29/01/2017