How can I help myself and others?
Help us help you this winter and follow our guide to staying well and our health services in Lincolnshire. Some common winter illnesses such as aches, pains, coughs, and colds can be treated in the comfort of your own home. So make sure to stock up on your medicine cabinet with over-the-counter remedies.
See below for other ways you can stay well and care for yourself or others.
Stay strong with winter vaccines
Many people get seriously ill from flu, including having complications like bronchitis or pneumonia, and every winter thousands of people die. COVID-19 can also still make people seriously ill. The risk from these viruses is greater during winter when they circulate most as people spend more time indoors.
Those aged 65 and over; those who are pregnant; or people who have health conditions that put them at risk; as well as unpaid carers and household contacts of those at risk, are able to get protected by having flu and COVID-19 vaccinations.
How to get the flu vaccine
If you’re eligible for an NHS flu vaccine, you can:
- contact your GP surgery to book an appointment
- find a pharmacy that offers NHS flu vaccination (if you’re aged 18 or over)
Some people may be able to get vaccinated through their maternity service, care home or their employer if they are a frontline health or social care worker.
You do not have to wait for an invitation before booking an appointment.
Seasonal COVID-19 vaccines
Some people at increased risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 may be able to get a seasonal COVID-19 vaccine later in 2024.
The NHS will contact you if your NHS record suggests you may be eligible for a seasonal COVID-19 vaccine.
When available, there will be different ways to get a seasonal COVID-19 vaccine:
- booking online
- going to a walk in COVID-19 vaccination site
- through a local NHS service, such as a GP surgery
- through your care home
Cases of infectious illnesses can increase over winter, including highly contagious infections such as flu and norovirus, also called the ‘winter vomiting bug’. These can make all of us unwell and can be especially serious for those who are more vulnerable, like the elderly and those people with certain health conditions.
Washing your hands with soap and water is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and others from catching these viruses and help reduce the pressures on healthcare services.
Washing your hands properly removes dirt, viruses and bacteria to stop them spreading to other people and objects and can help stop the spread of common winter infections. Hand washing is particularly important when you’re visiting someone in hospital or another healthcare setting.
If you do not have immediate access to soap and water, then use alcohol-based hand sanitiser. For more information go to: www.nhs.uk/handwashing.
Keep yourself and your home warm
Keeping warm over the winter months can help to prevent colds, flu and more serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression.
Heat your home to a temperature that’s comfortable for you. If you can, this should be at least 18°C in the rooms that you regularly use, such as your living room and bedroom. This is particularly important if you have a health condition. It’s best to keep your bedroom windows closed at night.
With the rising cost of living, simple changes can help to keep you and your home warm:
- Try to reduce draughts – you can fit draught excluders around doors cheaply.
- Keep your bedroom windows closed at night.
- Wear several layers of thinner clothing – this will keep you warmer than one thicker layer.
- Ensure you are eating enough and having hot drinks.
For more information on keeping warm and well this winter, visit: Keeping warm and well: staying safe in cold weather – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Check and stock your medicine cabinet
Whilst you’re out, why not also think about stocking up on medicine cabinet essentials to make sure you’re prepared for the winter?
There are a lot of bugs circulating at this time of year. People often turn up at hospitals with minor illnesses and injuries that could often be better treated more quickly elsewhere, or at home.
Your local pharmacist can offer you free health advice at any time, and no appointment is necessary. From coughs and colds to aches and pains, they can give you expert help on everyday illnesses and answer questions about prescribed and over the counter medicines.
All year round, pharmacists can also advise on healthy eating, obesity and giving up smoking and have private areas where you can talk in confidence.
Check your medicine cabinet and make sure you have the following basics which can all be bought from your local pharmacy or supermarket:
- Cold and flu remedies
- Anti-diarrhoea medicine
- Oral rehydration salts
- Indigestion remedies
- A thermometer
If you are already taking other medication, check first with your pharmacist to make sure the medicines are right for you.
Check any medicines you already have to make sure they are still okay to use. If any medicines are past their use-by date, don’t take them and return them to your local pharmacy for safe disposal.
By being prepared for winter and stocking up on medicine cabinet essentials which can readily be bought from your local pharmacy and supermarket, a lot of people could treat minor illnesses at home, avoiding unnecessary trips to the doctor.
Still worried? You can get help and advice
You can get help and advice from:
- A pharmacy – pharmacies can give treatment and advice for a range of minor illnesses and can tell you if you need to see a doctor
- Your GP – you may be able to speak to a GP online or over the phone, or go in for an appointment if they think you need to
- NHS 111 – go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111 if you have an urgent medical problem and you are not sure what to do
- Download the NHS App – view your GP health record, book and manage appointments, order repeat prescriptions and use NHS 111.
Help for older relatives and friends
Winter conditions can be bad for our health, especially for people aged 65 or older. Let’s come together and look out for each other, there are plenty of simple, practical things we can do to help each other this winter.
Check their home is warm enough – We know that many older people may be worried about heating their homes this year, but it’s important that they stay warm throughout the winter months for their health. If someone is saying their home is very cold or they’re worried about heating their home, their local age UK may be able to help. You can also find out more about getting help with energy bills on the Age UK website.
Repeat prescriptions – make sure they get their repeat prescriptions. For those with long-term health problems, taking daily medication is an important part of their treatment, and many are at risk of suffering serious complications, illnesses or hospital stays if medical supplies run out.
If your elderly relative or friend becomes unwell over a bank holiday period or need medical advice when your GP surgery is closed, please Think pharmacy first. GP out-of-hours services can also be accessed through NHS 111 online: Get help for your symptoms – NHS 111 or by calling NHS 111 free of charge.
Make sure they are up to date with their flu and covid vaccinations – For more information please visit: COVID-19 and Flu – Lincolnshire ICB
Help make sure they can get out and about safely – When it’s icy or wet outside, it’s easier to slip and fall. Helping to keep paths and driveways clear and salting steps and slopes could make a big difference.
Ask if they have everything they need – When the weather starts to get colder, some people might struggle to get the essentials they need. Why not get extra items for them on your shop, or help with an online shop.
Make sure they attend their GP appointments – It is really important that people attend their scheduled healthcare appointments.
Are they currently in hospital or being discharged from hospital? – visit: Let’s get you home to what matters to you – Lincolnshire ICB for support and guidance.
For more cold weather advice to help your elderly relative or friend stay warm and healthy throughout the winter months, visit: Winter advice for the elderly | Age UK or How to Keep Warm in Winter | Age UK.
Help with an unwell child
Seeing your child unwell can sometimes be worrying, but your health visitor, practice nurse, nurse practitioner, GP and pharmacist can all give you advice on how to treat your child’s illness.
The GP can treat your child and prescribe medicines. Some health visitors, nurses and pharmacists can also diagnose illness and prescribe medicines for your child.
If your child is ill, you can try your local pharmacy first. They’ll tell you if your child needs to see a GP. If your child has signs of serious illness, contact your GP surgery directly or take them straight to the A&E department of your local hospital.
Most GP surgeries are very supportive towards parents of small children. Some will fit babies into surgeries without an appointment or see them at the beginning of surgery hours. Many GPs will also give advice over the phone.
If you find it difficult to contact your doctor or get to the surgery, you can call NHS 111 for medical advice, 24 hours a day.
Illness in babies and toddlers
Trust your instincts - It can be difficult to tell when a baby or toddler is seriously ill, but the main thing is to trust your instincts.
You know better than anyone else what your child is usually like, so you'll know when something is seriously wrong.
Signs of serious illness in a baby or toddler – for a checklist of warning signs that might indicate your baby or toddler is seriously ill and requires medical help, visit: Is your baby or toddler seriously ill? - NHS (www.nhs.uk)
Dealing with children's minor accidents
Many GP surgeries, Urgent Treatment Centres (UTCs) and pharmacies are equipped to deal with minor casualties, such as cuts or items trapped in the nose or ear.
In this situation, ask a GP or NHS 111 for advice on where to go before you go to A&E.
Visit the NHS A to Z Health Guide
Your complete guide to conditions, symptoms and treatments, including what to do and when to get help. Health A to Z - NHS (www.nhs.uk)
Is my child well enough for school?
It can be tricky deciding whether or not to keep your child off school, nursery or playgroup when they're unwell. See guidance to help you decide - Is my child too ill for school? - NHS (www.nhs.uk).