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Cold Weather Public Health Advice

Advice from PHE on keeping healthy and safe in the cold weather

Everyone can prepare themselves for the cold weather, by following some simple measures. This page gives details on general preparations for winter including: flu vaccinations, norovirus (winter vomiting virus), heating checks, clothing advice and links to further sites that can offer help. It is not too late to have your heating system checked and it is a good idea to have to hand  the phone number of your  heating engineer in case the boiler does  break down and of the plumber in case of water leaks.
 

INFLUENZA                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Routine vaccination against influenza offers the best protection and people who are at high risk of infection should be vaccinated. If you are aged 65 or over, have a certain medical condition or are pregnant, you could be more vulnerable to the effects of flu (even if you are fit and healthy) and could develop more serious illnesses.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Even if you cannot easily visit your GP, you may be able to phone to get advice or contact NHS Direct (telephone: 0845 4647 or check www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk [external link]). This is particularly important for those people who have high risk conditions.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            In addition, for people with high risk conditions who develop flu symptoms, GPs may wish to consider prescribing antivirals but these need to be started within 48 hours of onset of illness.

PNEUMOCOCCAL DISEASE
pneumococcal vaccination is recommended for adults aged 65 or over, adults and children in a clinical risk group and children aged two months to under two years (as part of the childhood immunisation programme, effective from 4 September 2006)

MENINGITIS
If you are a student, you can refer to the HPA guidance for further information on Meningitis vaccination. Men C vaccine reduces your risk of developing some forms of meningitis. If you are unsure whether you have had the vaccine, please check with your parents or see your family doctor or nurse. It is important to remember that the Men C vaccine does not protect against all forms of meningitis so you still need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of this illness

NOROVIRUS
Norovirus – also called the winter vomiting bug – strikes this time of year and is the most common cause of infectious gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and vomiting) in England and Wales. The Illness is generally mild and people usually recover fully within 2-3 days; there are no long term effects that result from being infected. Infections can occur at any age because immunity is not long lasting. Good hand hygiene, especially after using the toilet, helps prevent the infection spreading to friends and relatives. Clean contaminated surfaces thoroughly and more frequently whilst they or someone in the home has norovirus infection.

HEATING CHECK
Have all gas, solid fuel and oil burning appliances (i.e. boilers, heaters and cookers) serviced by an appropriately registered engineer. Malfunctioning appliances can release carbon monoxide - a gas which at high levels will kill and at lower levels can cause health problems. Make sure flues and chimneys are swept and checked for blockages and that there is adequate ventilation in rooms to allow appliances to work properly. You should also fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm which is EN50291 compliant, but fitting an alarm should not replace regular maintenance of appliances.

CLOTHING
Wear well gripping shoes to prevent falls in cold weather and wear several layers of clothes to stay warm. Don't forget to check on vulnerable or elderly neighbours to make sure they are well and warm and have everything they need.

MEDICATION AND FOOD
Stay tuned into the weather forecast and ensure you are stocked with food and medications in advance (have deliveries or ask a friend to help if necessary).  During cold weather you may not always be able to get to the shops or to the GP so it is advisable to have plenty of food supplies as well as a stock of good home remedies for colds, sore throats, coughs and flu which all are more common at this time of the year. Having enough of your regular medication to last a few days is important if bad weather is forecast and also over holiday periods like Christmas and New Year when pharmacy and GP opening hours may change.

FURTHER ADVICE FROM EXTERNAL SITES
Check NHS choices - www.nhs.uk [external link] for health guidance on winter ailments (flu, winter vomiting, cold temperatures).
Gov.UK to Request snow clearance from a road, path or cycleway [external link]
Keep Warm Keep Well [external link]
NHS Direct or phone NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 [external link]