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West Middlesex University Hospital urges public to keep warm and well this winter

25 November 2013

Winter is traditionally a busy period for the NHS. It brings a range of winter ailments including coughs and colds, the flu, and Norovirus, all of which are spread easily.

Winter is traditionally a busy period for the NHS. It brings a range of winter ailments including coughs and colds, the flu, and Norovirus (winter vomiting disease) all of which are spread easily.

People with chronic long term health problems can see these exacerbated, for example those with breathing problems like asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD – a disease of the lungs) find the cold damp weather makes breathing harder. In addition icy and snowy conditions inevitably lead to slips and falls, especially amongst the elderly who are more likely to be seriously injured and immobilised by breaks and sprains.

Prevention is always better than cure and there are things we can all do in readiness.

If you are eligible, make sure you take up the offer of being immunised against flu. Your GP will be able to advise you on whether you should get this vaccine. More information is available on line at www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vaccinations/Pages/flu-influenza-vaccine.aspx

You never know when you are going to fall ill so it’s always best to keep a range of everyday medicines at home, just in case. Make sure your medicine cabinet is stocked up on remedies for things like colds, sore throat, flu, diarrhoea and sinusitis. None of these can be treated with antibiotics and are best treated at home. It is also useful to have some ready meals available in case you are too unwell to go out.

The NHS has a range of options available depending on what is wrong with you.

Your GP (family doctor) should be the first port of call for general health issues and advice. If you are not registered with a GP it is important you do so now, rather than waiting until you are unwell. More information can be found at: www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/AboutNHSservices/doctors/Pages/NHSGPs.aspx

The Hounslow Urgent Care Centre, at the front of our A&E, treats minor injuries and illnesses that require urgent treatment. It is open 24/7.

Our A&E / emergency department is for people who are seriously ill and require immediate treatment such as chest pain, blood loss and serious injury.

People often overlook their local pharmacist when they feel unwell. However these highly trained and experienced health professionals can give advice and recommendations on how to treat things like coughs and colds, flu, diarrhoea, upset stomachs and headaches.

Many common winter ailments are best treated at home. Some people believe that prescription drugs like antibiotics will make them better more quickly. However antibiotics are no longer routinely used to treat infections.

Important and useful phone numbers

Most people know to dial 999 if you have a medical emergency that may be life threatening. But you can now call 111 when you health advice and information 24/7.

In addition it is always useful to make a note of the phone numbers for your local health services including your GP, dentist and pharmacist.

Stay away from hospital if…

If you have the flu, or have had diarrhoea or vomiting in the previous 48 hours then we would ask you not to visit family or friends at the hospital. This is because you risk spreading your illness to other vulnerable patients as well as staff. Norovirus, sometimes know as winter vomiting disease, and flu are both highly contagious and have led to hospitals having to close entire wards.

Look after yourself and others

The old adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ still rings true. This means eating healthily, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and taking regular exercise if possible (but do consult your GP before starting any new exercise, especially if you have any long term health conditions). In winter, with the short days and cold weather, it is all too easy to neglect exercise and to comfort eat. But this can deplete your body’s ability to fight off mild illnesses. It is also important to keep warm and well – there is some usefulinformation online at:

www.nhs.uk/livewell/winterhealth/Pages/Winterhealthhome.aspx

Finally do think of elderly friends and neighbours and if possible offer to help them over the winter period. They may find it harder to get out during icy and snowy weather and appreciate any help with shopping or errands.