Keeping Well in Winter – Top Tipsstethoscope

Keeping warm over the winter months can help prevent colds, flu or more serious health conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression.

  • If you have reduced mobility, are 65 or over, or have a health condition such as heart or lung disease, you should heat your home to at least 18C and make sure you wear enough clothes to stay warm. It’s a good idea to keep your bedroom at this temperature all night.
  • Keep your home well ventilated – This will improve the air quality by reducing pollutants in the air which can build up with bad ventilation, and also prevent mould which can affect you if you have a respiratory condition.
  • If you’re under 65 and healthy, you can safely have your house cooler than 18C, if you’re comfortable.
  • You can add extra blankets and/or use a hot water bottle (use hot, not boiling, water with caution) to keep warm while you’re in bed.
  • Close your curtains when it gets dark – This will help keep the heat in the house.
  • Avoid having furniture blocking the radiators – as the furniture will heat up instead of your room.

Cold weather benefits – You may be able to claim financial and practical help with heating your home. 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. Find out more online from www.energysavingtrust.org.uk or call 0300 123 1234.

Eat well

Food is a vital source of energy which helps keep your body warm. Make sure that you have hot meals and drinks regularly throughout the day and keep active in the home if you can.

Wear warm clothes

Wrap up warmly. Layer your clothing and wear shoes with a good grip if you need to go outside. If possible, stay inside during a cold period if you have heart or respiratory problems. Wear a hat and scarf if you have to go outside to reduce loss of body heat.

Help prevent colds/viral infections

Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, pay attention to your nails and between your fingers. Take time to dry your hands properly using a clean towel. This destroys bugs that you may have picked up from touching surfaces used by other people, such as light switches and door handles. It’s also important to keep the house and any household items such as cups, glasses and towels clean, especially if someone in your house is ill.

  • Top tip: If you get a cold, use disposable tissues instead of cloth handkerchiefs to avoid constantly re-infecting your own hands.

Stop smoking – Smoking reduces how well your lungs work. For more information contact: NHS Smoking Helpline on 0800 169 0169

Carry any medication you take with you at all times

If you have a long-term respiratory condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma, your symptoms may get worse during winter.

To manage your symptoms, you must be ‘weather-wise’. Being weather-wise means:

  • Knowing why it is import to manage your condition during the winter
  • Having information to manage your condition during the winter months
  • Making changes to your lifestyle to prevent your condition from getting worse.

Asthma UK – five tips to avoid cold-related asthma attacks

  1. Be extra vigilant about taking your regular, preventative, prescription medications.
  2. If you know that cold air triggers your asthma, take one or two puffs of your reliever inhaler before going outside.
  3. Keep your blue reliever inhaler with you at all times.
  4. Wrap up well and wear a scarf over your nose and mouth – this will help to warm up the air before you breathe it in.
  5. Take extra care when exercising in cold weather. Warm up for 10-15 minutes and take one or two puffs of your reliever inhaler before you start.
  6. If you have a bronchodilator, use it 30 minutes before going outside.

Heart Conditions

Very cold weather can affect your heart by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. Your heart also has to work much harder to keep your body warm. Cold temperatures may also cause changes to your blood that can increase the risk of developing blood clots and lead to heart attack and stroke. Elderly people are particularly vulnerable to a drop in body temperature (hypothermia) in the winter months.

Sore throats are common in winter and are almost always caused by viral infections. There’s some evidence that changes in temperature, such as going from a warm, centrally heated room to the icy outdoors, can also affect the throat.

  • Top tip: One quick and easy remedy for a sore throat is to gargle with warm salty water. It won’t heal the infection, but it has anti-inflammatory properties and can have a soothing effect. Dissolve one teaspoon of salt in a glass of part-cooled boiled water. The use of antibiotics is not usually recommended for treating sore throats. This is because most sore throats are not caused by bacteria.

Norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug, is an extremely infectious stomach bug. It can strike all year round, but is more common in winter. The illness is unpleasant, but it’s usually over within a couple of days. Top tip: When people are ill with vomiting and/or diarrhoea, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Young children and the elderly are especially at risk. By drinking oral rehydration fluids (available from pharmacies), you can reduce the risk of dehydration.

Do not run out of medication, order in good time and take special note of Bank Holiday closures.

Age UK have information that you may find useful www.ageuk.org.uk Tel: 0800 169 8787

Overusing antibiotics to treat minor ailments can also make them less effective in the treatment of life-threatening conditions. This is known as antibiotic resistance.