Winter - keep well
Seasonal flu happens every year, usually in the winter. It is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus and spreads easily from person to person.
Flu is far more serious than a cold. Symptoms hit you suddenly and severely and usually include fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles - you can often get a cough and sore throat at the same time.
A vaccine is available every year to protect those people who are most at risk from catching or spreading flu. The vaccine is available free of charge to the following at risk groups:
• people aged 65 or over
• all pregnant women
• individuals six months to under 65 years in clinical “ at risk” groups.
• a chest problem or breathing difficulties (such as asthma, bronchitis or emphysema)
• a heart problem
• kidney disease or liver disease
• a neurological condition (such as Parkinson's, motor neurone disease or cerebral palsy)
• a low immune system due to disease (such as cystic fibrosis or Chrohn's disease) or treatment (such as chemotherapy)
• have previously had a stroke
• a problem with the spleen (such as sickle cell disease) or if the spleen has been removed.
You should also have the vaccine if you:
• live in a residential or nursing home
• are a main carer.
Children with any of the conditions listed above or who have previously been admitted to hospital with chest or breathing problems should also have the vaccine.
Where can I get the vaccine?
The vaccine is available free of charge to people in at risk groups from your GP practice. Please do not be complacent or wait until there is a flu outbreak this winter - book an appointment as soon as possible.
Catch it, bin it, kill it!
The best way to avoid flu is to get the vaccine, but you can also protect yourself and those around you by practising good hand hygiene with the 'catch it, bin it, kill it' technique. This means carrying tissues, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, throwing away the tissue after one use, and cleaning your hands as soon as possible with soap and water or an alcohol hand gel.
Norovirus is an exceedingly common and widespread illness that affects all age groups. At any time throughout the year, there are cases of the virus circulating in communities. Hospitals across the country will be caring for patients who are affected by the virus.
As with all hospitals and care homes, a number of measures are taken to help stop the spread of the virus. These include closing some ward areas to new admissions and asking anyone with symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches and abdominal pains to stay away from visiting friends and family in hospital/care homes.
We know how important visiting is for patients/residents and their families and friends but it is important that they help to stop the spread of the virus by not visiting until they are free from symptoms for at least 48 hours.
The symptoms of norovirus are; vomiting, diarrhoea and a general feeling of being unwell. Whilst the illness is usually mild and lasts only two to three days, it can cause severe discomfort and can be distressing for vulnerable people, such as the elderly.
There is no medication required for the virus and affected individuals should rest, stay away from school, work and others and have plenty of fluids. People are infectious for up to two days after symptoms cease ays. Good standards of hand hygiene with soap and water must be adhered to. Frequent cleaning of toilets and hand-wash basins using diluted bleach will help prevent spread in the family home.
For information about choosing the right health services please click here.
There are some simple steps that everyone can take to help stay well during the winter period.
Heat your home – or at least the rooms you use often - to between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius. Wear layers of clothes to trap warm air and wrap up warm in bed. Eat at least one hot meal a day and drink plenty of non-alcoholic drinks, particularly hot drinks like tea, coffee or hot squash.
If you have prescription medicines make sure you have a stock in – don’t forget COPD inhalers or asthma preventer inhalers, particularly for children. Don’t go outside in severe weather unless you need to; instead try to keep active indoors. If you do need to go out, wrap up warm and wear sturdy, non-slip footwear. Keep an eye on elderly friends and neighbours and get more information www.ageuk.org.uk
If you are feeling unwell with a cough, cold, flu or stomach upset please do not visit friends or relatives in hospital. If you have a stomach upset please wait two days until after the symptoms have gone. Because hospitals are full of people who are more vulnerable to catching infections taking bugs into hospitals is the worse thing you can do.
Keep food cupboards well stocked. Make sure you have enough money on your electricity and gas meters and keep a torch somewhere handy. Listen to the weather forecasts – sometimes it’s not safe to make a journey so stay at home. If you have to travel, be prepared for all weather conditions and plan your route accordingly. Get your vehicle serviced and carry an emergency kit in the boot. Now is the time to get in supplies of winter essentials such as heating oils, salt/grit. Winter items are more plentiful in the autumn and generally cheaper than when demand peaks in the depths of winter, so it makes good economic sense too.
Keep in touch
Make a note of important phone numbers such as NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 and West Yorkshire Urgent Care Services on 0345 605 99 99; your gas, water and electricity suppliers; and friends, carers, relatives and neighbours. Keep up to date on weather warnings by listening to the local radio, visiting the Met Office website or logging on to their Twitter, Facebook and other social networks Check Floodline 0845 988 1188 and the Environment Agency website www.environment-agency.gov.uk for current picture of flood warnings issued as well as the 3 Day Flood forecast and current river levels.
More information is also available on Directgov.