With colder weather forecast for the weekend, the Department of Health and Social Care is raising awareness of how people – particularly those in vulnerable groups, such as the elderly or those with chronic health conditions – can take steps to ensure they are prepared.
Member for the Department of Health and Social Care, Ann Corlett MHK, said: ‘As winter takes hold, the cold can have a significant impact on the vulnerable, so it’s important for people to be given the correct information on how to stay safe and well, and help reduce any anxiety.
‘A dedicated web page is available on gov.im/winterhealth highlighting what to do during a cold snap, whether that’s how to keep warm at home or which roads are gritted to maintain essential travel.
‘It also features information and advice on vaccinations such as the flu jab, managing colds and sore throats, staying active, the importance of a good diet and how to access support services.’
Tips on staying healthy and warm during cold weather:
• Vaccinations – contact your GP Surgery to arrange for an annual flu jab to vaccinate against the influenza virus and for information about pneumococcal vaccination (to help protect against pneumonia, septicaemia and meningitis).
• Protect against germs – avoid picking up and spreading germs by practicing good hygiene – washing your hands regularly with soap and hot water, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or handkerchief when you cough or sneeze, and using hand sanitizer when out and about. This will help protect against getting colds, flu, and other conditions such as norovirus (diarrhoea and vomiting).
• Keep active – try to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle, with appropriate regular exercise (speak to your GP before commencing an exercise plan) or by moving around at least once an hour.
• Eat well and drink plenty of fluids – eat a healthy and varied diet and drink plenty of water and hot drinks to keep energy levels up and to stay warm. If necessary, stock up on tinned and frozen foods so that you don’t have to venture out to the shops in severe cold weather.
• Wear the right clothing – dress for the weather, both inside and outside the house – multiple thin layers (such as a vest, shirt, and jumper) retain body heat more effectively than one thick layer (such as a woolly jumper). Wear slippers or shoes in the house to keep feet warm and ensure that footwear has grip to help avoid falls. When outside, don’t forget to wear a scarf, gloves and a hat to prevent heat loss.
• Heat your home effectively and safely – set your home or at least one room at around 21o C (70o F), setting heating timers to come on before you get up and before you go to bed if necessary, remembering to close curtains, doors and block drafts to keep rooms warm. Bedrooms should be above 18o C (65o F) and you can use a hot water bottle or electronic blanket in bed (but not both). Heating appliances should be regularly checked and used with adequate ventilation to avoid the risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning; electric blankets should be checked regularly and replaced at least every 10 years.
• Consider taking a vitamin D supplement. Between April and September we can get the vitamin D we need through the action of the sun on our skin. Between October and March, we need to get vitamin D from the diet because the sun isn't strong enough for the body to make vitamin D. Some foods contain vitamin D (including red meat, liver, oily fish, eggs and fortified spreads). But since it's difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.
• Keep a supply of good home remedies for colds, sore throats, and coughs which are all common at this time of year.
• Keep an eye on the weather forecasts through television, radio, internet or newspapers – or alternatively call 0900 624 3300 for a recorded forecast or visit www.gov.im/weather.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help either by contacting friends, relatives, neighbours, your GP, social worker, district nurse, or housing officer and remember, in a life-threatening situation you should always dial 999 immediately.