Winter conditions can be bad for our health, especially if you are aged 65 or older, or have a long-term condition such as heart or kidney disease, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma or diabetes.
Being cold can raise the risk of increased blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. And the cold and damp weather, ice, snow and high winds can all aggravate existing health problems and make us more vulnerable to respiratory winter illnesses.
But there are things we can all do to help us stay well during the winter months. On this page, you will find useful advice and information on local and national services that offer care and support.
If you’re worried about your health this winter, don’t delay, your NHS wants to see you. Using the right service for your needs, can help you get the care you need safely. Find out what to do if you need help with an urgent health problem. If you’re not sure what to do, contact NHS 111. It’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Visit 111.nhs.uk or call 111.
It is important to keep warm in winter – both inside and outdoors. Keeping warm over the winter months can help to prevent colds, flu and more serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression.
Heat your home to at least 18°C (65°F), if you can. You might prefer your main living room to be slightly warmer.
Keep your bedroom window closed on winter nights. Breathing cold air can be bad for your health as it increases the risk of chest infections.
Keep active when you’re indoors. Try not to sit still for more than an hour or so.
Wear several layers of light clothes. Several layers trap warm air better than one bulky layer.
Make sure you’re receiving all the help that you’re entitled to.
There are grants, benefits and sources of advice available to make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating or help with bills. Visit www.simpleenergyadvice.org.uk and www.gov.uk/browse/benefits/heating for further information.
Check your heating and cooking appliances are safe. Contact a Gas Safe registered engineer to make sure they’re operating properly. Visit www.gassaferegister.co.uk
Pharmacists are highly trained healthcare professionals, who can offer clinical advice and over-the-counter medicines for a range of minor illnesses, such as coughs, colds, sore throats, tummy trouble and aches and pains.
Pharmacists have the right training to make sure you get the help you need and can tell you if you need to see a GP, nurse or other healthcare professional.
Many pharmacies are open until late and at weekends and many have a private consultation room where you can ask for advice without being overheard. You do not need an appointment.
Don’t go to a pharmacy if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or are self-isolating. You can order prescriptions via the NHS App or GP online services or by calling your GP. Ask a friend, relative or volunteer to collect medicines for you.
You can collect a prescription yourself, or ask a friend, relative or volunteer to collect it for you. You could also speak to your pharmacy about whether they can deliver your medicine to your home.
Make sure you get your prescription medicines before your pharmacy or GP practice closes for Christmas.
If you’ve been prescribed antibiotics or any other medication, make sure you take them as directed.
Keep your medicine cabinet well stocked
Ask your pharmacist what medicines should be in your cabinet to help get you and your family through the winter season.
Many over-the-counter medicines (including paracetamol and ibuprofen) are available to relieve symptoms of common winter ailments such as colds, sinusitis or painful middle ear infection (earache). Your pharmacist can help if you need any advice.
To manage winter illness symptoms at home, you should keep warm, rest, drink plenty of fluids, have at least one hot meal a day to keep your energy levels up and use over-the-counter medications to help give relief. For more information search ‘medicine cabinet’ on www.nhs.uk
There are often things you can do yourself at home to treat common illnesses and problems – sometimes with advice of a pharmacist. If you’re not sure what to do, contact NHS 111. It’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Visit 111.nhs.uk or call 111. Find out more about the following common conditions on the NHS website:
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been a worrying time and may have made it harder for parents and families to know when and how to use local health services safely. Read our Health advice for parents and carers booklet for advice on where and when to seek advice and help if you are concerned about your child’s physical or mental health. It’s available as an Easy Read booklet and in various languages and aims to help make sure your child receives any care and support they need at the right time and in the right place.
The booklet contains information on respiratory illness (coughs and colds) in children. The NHS is seeing an increase in respiratory illness in children as COVID restrictions ease and people mix more. For the majority of children, respiratory illnesses are not serious and they will soon recover following rest and plenty of fluids. But some children under two, especially those born prematurely or with a heart condition, can experience more severe illness. Parents and carers are encouraged to look out for symptoms of a severe infection and to contact a healthcare professional when concerned.
Being registered with a GP practice will help you get the right care when you need it. Anyone is entitled to register and receive care from a GP practice. Anyone in England can register and receive care from a GP practice. You do not need proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number.
Find out how to register with a GP practice on the NHS website.
Washing your hands with soap and water is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and others from illnesses such as food poisoning, diarrhoea, flu and COVID-19.
Wash your hands thoroughly for the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice (around 20 seconds).
Washing your hands properly removes dirt, viruses and bacteria to stop them spreading to other people and objects. If you do not have immediate access to soap and water then use alcohol-based handrub. For more information go to www.nhs.uk/handwashing
You should wash your hands:
- once you get home, or into work
- after using the toilet or changing a nappy
- before and after handling raw foods like meat and vegetables
- before eating or handling food
- after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing
- before and after treating a cut or wound
- after touching animals, including pets, their food and after cleaning their cages.
Owned and run by the NHS, the NHS App is a simple and secure way to access a range of NHS services on your smartphone or tablet. You can Use the NHS App to:
- get your NHS COVID Pass – view and share your COVID Pass for places in England that have chosen to use this service and travel abroad
- get advice about coronavirus – get information about coronavirus and find out what to do if you think you have it
- order repeat prescriptions – see your available medicines, request a new repeat prescription and choose a pharmacy for your prescriptions to be sent to
- book appointments – search for, book and cancel appointments at your GP surgery, and see details of your upcoming and past appointments
- get health advice – search trusted NHS information and advice on hundreds of conditions and treatments. You can also answer questions to get instant advice or medical help near you
- view your health record – securely access your GP health record, to see information like your allergies and your current and past medicines. If your GP has given you access to your detailed medical record, you can also see information like test results and details of your consultations
- register your organ donation decision – choose to donate some or all of your organs and check your registered decision
- find out how the NHS uses your data – choose if data from your health records is shared for research and planning
- view your NHS number – find out what your NHS number is.
There’s strong evidence that people who are active have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression and dementia. Regular exercise can help improve your mental health, reduce the risk of falling and can be beneficial for recovery if you do get ill.
There are many activities you could do at home, such as walking up and down stairs, dancing, gardening, housework, or taking part in online fitness classes. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it’s something you enjoy and keeps you moving. Try to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting down during the day. Break up your time spent being inactive by walking around your home or standing up from your chair during TV advert breaks or when you’re on the phone.
Don’t do anything that feels uncomfortable and trust your instincts about your own limits. Stop if you are feeling any pain or lightheaded and stay hydrated.
For advice on keeping active in Haringey, visit oneyouharingey.org
For advice on keeping active in Islington, visit oneyouislington.org
There are little things we can all do to help look after our mental health. Having good mental health helps us relax more, achieve more and enjoy our lives more. You can find expert advice and practical tips to help you look after your mental health and wellbeing on the Every Mind Matters website.
Information on how to get help if you are experiencing a mental health crisis is available on our website.
For advice on mental health services in Islington visit the One You Islington website.
Remember that other people, such as older neighbours, friends and family members, may need a bit of extra help over the winter. There’s a lot you can do to help people who are more frail than you.
Icy pavements and roads can be very slippery, and cold weather can stop people from getting out and about.
Keep in touch with your friends, neighbours and family and ask if they need any practical help, or if they’re feeling under the weather.
Make sure they’re stocked up with enough food supplies for a few days, in case they can’t go out.
If they do need to go out in the cold, encourage them to wear shoes with a good grip and a scarf around the mouth to protect them from the cold air, and to reduce their risk of chest infections.
Make sure they get any prescription medicines before the Christmas holidays start or if bad weather is forecast.
If they need help over the holiday period when the GP practice or pharmacy is closed or they’re not sure what to do, NHS 111 can help. The service is available online at 111.nhs.uk and also by phone. By answering questions about their health problem they will be told what to do and where to go. You can also find information at www.nhs.uk