Winter weather can be seriously bad for our health, especially for people aged 65 or older and those with long-term health conditions.
Cold and damp weather, ice, snow and high winds can all aggravate existing health problems and make people more vulnerable to illnesses that are more common in the winter. But don’t worry, there are lots of things you can do to stay well this winter.
Dealing with common winter illnesses
Coughs and Colds - To ease the symptoms of a cold, drink plenty of fluids and try to rest. Prevent colds from spreading by washing your hands thoroughly, and always sneeze and cough into tissues, throwing them away after use.
Sore throats A sore throat is almost always caused by a viral infection, like a cold. Try not to eat or drink anything that’s too hot, as this could further irritate your throat; cool or warm drinks and cool, soft foods should go down easier. Please remember that antibiotics don't work for viral infections such as colds and flu, or for most coughs and sore throats.
Asthma A range of weather-related triggers can set off asthma symptoms, including cold air. Covering your nose and mouth with a warm scarf when you’re out can help, and if you are on medication such as an inhaler make sure you use it as advised by your doctor.
Norovirus This is also known as the winter vomiting bug, although it can cause diarrhoea too. The main thing to do to is drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. You can also take paracetamol for any aches, pains or fever.
Flu If you’re 65 or over, have a long-term health condition such as diabetes or kidney disease, flu can be life-threatening, so it’s important to seek help early. However, if you’re generally fit and healthy, the best treatment is to rest, stay warm and drink plenty of water.
Where can I seek further help and advice?
If you do need to see a health professional for advice or treatment quickly, but it’s not a life-threatening emergency, there are a range of different options available to you, including:
GP - If you need medical attention your GP is your first point of contact for non-emergency illnesses which you can’t treat yourself, and will offer a same day appointment when it’s urgent.
GP Out of Hours - Even if your GP surgery is closed, you can still see a local GP out of opening hours by calling your usual practice number or dialling NHS 111.
Pharmacist - Get professional health advice on common winter illnesses, and the best medicines to treat them, right on the high street
NHS Walk-in Centres - Access treatment 365 days of the year for every day illnesses and minor injuries you can't treat yourself at home. No need for an appointment – you can just walk in.
NHS 111 – Call if you need medical advice fast, but it’s not a 999 emergency. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are free from landlines and mobiles.
nhs.uk – Visit the NHS online to check symptoms, get answers to common health questions, and find local health services.