Throughout the year, changes in the weather can impact negatively on our health, particularly those at more risk. It’s good for you to be aware of what health signs to look out for in the cold winter or hot summer months and what you can do to keep you safe and well during these periods.
It's just the flu
You will have heard friends and family say it's just the flu but each year the flu kills on average 11,000 people and hospitalises thousands more. There’s no just about it!
There has never been a more important time to make sure you and those you care for are protected against serious illnesses, such as the flu.
Where vaccines are available, it’s vital that we use them to help keep everyone safe. Look out for updates from your local GP or NHS team and book your vaccination as soon as you are invited to do so.
Get the flu vaccination, stay well and protect yourself, your loved ones and the NHS.
Our colleagues at North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group helped us pull together the below responses to common questions about the flu and the vaccine.
More information can be found at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/who-should-have-flu-vaccine/
What causes flu?
Flu is caused by influenza viruses that infect the windpipe and lungs. And because it’s caused by viruses and not bacteria, antibiotics won’t treat it. However, if there are complications from getting flu, antibiotics may be needed.
How do we protect against flu?
Flu is unpredictable. The vaccine provides the best protection available against a virus that can cause severe illness. The most likely viruses that will cause flu are identified in advance of the flu season and vaccines are then made to match them as closely as possible. The vaccines are given in the autumn ideally before flu starts circulating. During the last ten years the vaccine has generally been a good match for the circulating strains. It is more important than ever this year to have your vaccination to protect yourself, your loved ones and the NHS, and for those on the eligible list the vaccine is provided free.
You should have the flu vaccine if you are:
- 65 years old or over
- an adult or child with certain conditions
- living with someone on the shielded patient list
- living in a care home or other long-stay facility
- receiving a carer's allowance, or you're the main carer for an elderly or disabled person
- 2 to 3 years old
- in primary school, or the first year of secondary school (Year 7)
- a frontline health and social care worker.
The NHS will contact you directly if you are eligible and will give you information about where to go to get the vaccine.
Will the flu vaccine protect me against COVID-19?
The flu vaccine won’t protect you against COVID-19, but it will help protect you against the strains of flu virus that will be circulating this year.
Helping to protect against flu is particularly important with COVID-19 in circulation because people vulnerable to COVID-19, are also at risk of complications from flu.
Is the flu vaccination safe?
The flu vaccination is safe and effective and must be given annually. It cannot give you the flu. Adults usually receive the flu vaccination in injection form and children usually receive a nasal spray.
When can I get the flu vaccination?
We expect that the flu vaccination will be available from autumn 2020 onwards for those on the eligible list. You will be invited to book a vaccination appointment at around this time, but please contact your GP practice if not. It’s important that you have your vaccination as soon as possible.
Where can I get the flu vaccination?
Many people will receive their flu vaccination at a GP surgery as usual. This year some GPs are also looking at running clinics in other additional locations to ensure they can offer the vaccine safely to as many people at risk as possible. Your practice will give clear guidance on where you need to go when you book your appointment. Other people may choose to go to a pharmacy or another location in their community.
Children of school age will receive their vaccination from a trained health professional at school.
Health professionals will visit care homes to vaccinate residents and staff on site and will also visit those who are housebound.
Is it safe to attend appointments at health clinics?
The NHS is doing everything it can to make sure that vaccinations are given in safe environments and staff giving you your vaccination will be using the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
You will need to wear a mask unless you are exempt. All possible precautions will be to taken to make sure you, and staff, are protected and safe.
For more information visit: https://northcentrallondonccg.nhs.uk/my-health/protect-yourself-this-winter/
Staying 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. But there are lots of things you can do to stay well this winter.
Top 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.
Who can help when you’re feeling under the weather?
With increasing pressures on A&E, it is crucial to know what service to choose to best treat your symptoms this winter. Not only can you can get faster and better treatment by choosing the right NHS service, but you will help us reduce the pressure on emergency services, so they can help those that are in most need.
For those who do get a winter virus, minor conditions such as headaches, colds and back pain can be treated effectively by a pharmacist, who can offer a range of solutions and advice without the need of a GP. The sooner you seek out this advice the better.
If you can’t get to a pharmacist yourself, ask someone to go for you or call your local pharmacy. If symptoms are severe or go on for several days, you should contact your GP surgery for advice.
It is important to keep warm in winter. This can help prevent colds, flu and more serious problems such as pneumonia, strokes, heart attacks and depression. Some things to consider include:
- 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
- keep active when you’re indoors, try not to sit still for more than an hour or so
- wear several layers of light clothes.
Check your medicine cabinet
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 earache.
So talk to your pharmacist for advice on getting the relief you need.
To manage winter illness symptoms at home:
- drink plenty of fluids
- have at least one hot meal a day to keep your energy levels up
- use over-the-counter medications to help give relief.
For more information and advice visit www.nhs.uk/staywell