Keeping yourself and your family well this winter
There are lots of things that you can do to protect yourself and those around you from illness over the upcoming colder months:
- Book your COVID-19 vaccination if you haven’t already
- Book your flu jab if you’re eligible for one
- Meet people outside if possible, or open doors and windows to let in fresh air if meeting people inside
- Wear a face covering when out and about in crowded places
- Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day
- Remember to ‘catch it, kill it, bin it’- catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue and clean your hands after you’ve thrown it away
Check out our 10 ways to stay well PDF for more ideas.
If you do become ill then managing your symptoms at home can be made easier by keeping your medicine cabinet well-stocked with a supply of medicines from your local supermarket or pharmacy.
Coughs and colds
Coughs and colds are more common at this time of year as people spend more time indoors. Most minor ailments can be treated at home with over-the-counter medicines- your local pharmacist can advise you if you are unsure about which medicine could help.
|Could it be coronavirus (COVID-19)?
How to treat a cold at home
- rest and sleep
- keep warm
- drink plenty of water (fruit juice or squash mixed with water is OK) to avoid dehydration
- try hot lemon and honey drinks to soothe a sore throat
- ease aches or lower a temperature with painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen
- relieve a blocked nose with decongestant sprays or tablets (ask your pharmacist for further advice)
- cough medicine or cough sweets can help to ease a cough
Visit the NHS website for further advice about coughs and when you might need to seek advice from your GP
Respiratory illness in children
Children are at higher risk of severe respiratory illness such as bronchiolitis, and this year cases are higher than usual. Visit the Children’s Health page to find out more.
Colds and flu share many of the same symptoms, but flu tends to be more severe and symptoms can include a fever as well as aches and pains. Flu symptoms tend to come on more rapidly and leave you feeling unable to carry on with normal daily tasks. For some people flu can be very serious, and so the flu vaccine is offered to these at risk groups each year.
You are eligible for an NHS flu vaccine if you:
- are a frontline health or social care worker
- are aged 50 and over
- have a respiratory condition such as asthma
- have diabetes
- have a heart condition
- have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above
- have a kidney or liver disease
- have a weakened immune system
- are pregnant
- receive a carer's allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
- live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)
You can have your free flu vaccine at:
- your GP surgery
- a pharmacy offering the service – search for your nearest pharmacy here
- your midwifery service if you're pregnant
Diarrhoea and vomiting
Norovirus, also called the "winter vomiting bug", is a stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea. It can be very unpleasant, but usually goes away in about 2 days.
How to treat norovirus yourself
You can usually treat yourself or your child at home. The most important thing is to rest and have lots of fluids to avoid dehydration. You will usually start to feel better in 2 to 3 days.
Norovirus is highly infectious so it is important to wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Alcohol hand gels do not kill norovirus. Stay off school or work until you have not been sick or had diarrhoea for at least 2 days, to avoid passing it on. Do not visit hospitals or care homes during this time.
If your child has norovirus symptoms
Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111 if:
- you're worried about a baby under 12 months
- your child stops breast or bottle feeding while they're ill
- a child under 5 years has signs of dehydration – such as fewer wet nappies
- you or your child (over 5 years) still have signs of dehydration after using oral rehydration sachets
- you or your child have bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from the bottom
- you or your child have diarrhoea for more than 7 days or vomiting for more than 2 days
111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.
Call 999 or go to A&E if you or your child:
- vomit blood or have vomit that looks like ground coffee
- have green or yellow-green vomit
- might have swallowed something poisonous
- have a stiff neck and pain when looking at bright lights
- have a sudden, severe headache or stomach ache
Use the right service
If you are unwell or injured, it’s important to choose the right service to make sure you get the best treatment as quickly as possible. You may not need to see your GP or go to A&E.
If you're unsure of where to go for help, start with NHS 111 online.
You can also find out more information about each service.