The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and Public Health Agency (PHA) are working together this winter to ensure that people prepare for the colder period. Their joint campaign, ‘Stay Well This Winter’, is urging people to look after themselves and take actions that will help them stay well during winter.
Dr Carolyn Harper, Director of Public Health at the PHA, said: “Winter can affect people’s health, particularly those over 65 and people who have a long-term health condition.
“Some simple steps can help protect against the effects of the cold weather and winter viruses. If you or your children are eligible for a free flu vaccination, take up the offer. If you are on regular medication, make sure you order your prescriptions in plenty of time before the Christmas break to avoid running out when your GP’s surgery is closed. If you do start to feel unwell, don’t forget that you can visit your local pharmacist for help and advice, particularly for coughs and colds.”
Highlighting the importance of flu vaccination is a key aspect of the campaign, urging people who are eligible to get in touch with their GP and take up the offer of the free flu jab before the cold weather sets in, as the inevitable drop in temperature can affect the body’s ability to fight off viruses such as the flu.
GP Dr Brendan Colgan features in the ads which accompany the campaign, and said: “People most at risk from flu include pregnant women, children aged 2 – 11 years old, people aged 65 and over and people with long-term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, bronchitis, heart disease, and kidney disease.
“If you are in one of these groups and catch the flu, it can lead to serious complications for your health and may result in hospital admission. That is why is it so important not to ignore the offer to get the free vaccine – a quick visit to your GP to get it could really help you look after your health this winter.”
Healthcare professionals such as Dr Colgan can be seen across a range of channels, including TV, outdoor advertising, and social media, reminding us all to look after ourselves.
Another key step highlighted by the campaign is keeping warm. This may seem obvious, but it can be a difficult time for some people, particularly those on low incomes, to heat their homes effectively. Living in a cold or draughty house can lead to poor health, especially for people who are less able to regulate their own body temperature.
Dr Harper added: “The cold winter months can be a difficult time for older members of our community and we would ask people to look out for their older neighbours and check in on them particularly during a cold spell.
“Keeping a room warm to at least 18 degrees, moving around, and taking regular warm drinks and food, can reduce the risk of hypothermia. Putting on extra layers such as a blanket and a hat can help greatly, as most body heat is lost through the head. These small, cost-effective steps can help people stay warm over winter.
“If you’re worried about the cost of heating your home, help and advice about Cold Weather Payments or the Winter Fuel Payment is available on the NI Direct website.”
For further information on how to help yourself stay well this winter visit: www.nidirect.gov.uk/stay-well