Take control of your long term condition this winter

Health professionals are advising people with long term conditions to take extra precautions to look after their health this winter. 

Winter conditions can be seriously bad for our health, especially for people aged 65 or older, and people with long-term conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, diabetes or heart or kidney disease.

Being cold can raise the risk of increased blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.

The cold and damp weather, ice, snow and high winds can all aggravate any existing health problems and make us more vulnerable to respiratory winter illnesses. But there are lots of things you can do to manage your conditions and stay well this winter.

Professor John Howarth, GP and Deputy Chief Executive at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, explains:

“If you have a long-term health condition it is really important that you look after yourself as the poor weather and colder temperatures can worsen your symptoms.  By planning ahead and following these simple steps it will help you manage your condition during what is widely predicted to be a very challenging winter period.

“It is vital that anyone with a long term condition gets vaccinated against flu to protect themselves,

“No-one likes being ill or wants to spend time in hospital, so we all need to take responsibility for looking after ourselves as best we can. By managing long term conditions and planning ahead you will vastly reduce the likelihood of needing urgent medical attention.”

The following simple steps will help you not only look after yourself but also understand how to use NHS Services in the most effective way for you.

  • Personalised Care Plan?

 It’s a good idea for those with a long term condition to have an up-to-date personalised care plan. A care plan will help you manage your condition better – especially during the cold weather. It will also help loved ones know what to do if you do need medical attention. If you’re not sure if you have a Personalised Care Plan, contact your GP for more information.

  • Get a flu jab? It can protect you all winter. 

The best way to protect yourself and your family is to get the flu jab. If you are in a risk group, are pregnant or aged over 65 or over, it is really important to get vaccinated; contact your GP surgery and make an appointment. The flu virus strikes in winter and it can be far more serious than you think. Flu can lead to serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and it can be deadly. That’s why the flu jab is free if you’re aged 65 or over, or if you have a long-term health condition. If you have children or grandchildren they too may also be eligible for a free flu vaccination.  And if you are the main carer of an older or disabled person you may also be eligible for the free flu jab. Just speak to your GP or pharmacist. Also, don’t forget that if you’re aged 65 or over, you are eligible for the pneumococcal vaccine, which will help protect you from pneumococcal diseases such as pneumonia. For more information on staying well this winter visit nhs.uk/flujab.

  • If you feel unwell don’t wait – get advice from your nearest pharmacist

At the first sign of a winter illness, even if it’s just a cough or cold, get advice from your pharmacist, before it gets more serious. Act quickly. The sooner you get advice from a pharmacist the better. Pharmacists are fully qualified to advise you on the best course of action. This can be the best and quickest way to help you recover and get back to normal. If you can’t get to a pharmacist yourself, ask someone to go for you or call your local pharmacy. You can find out which pharmacies are close to you by visiting the NHS Choices website

  • Think ahead. 

Make sure that you have enough medication to last when your GP surgery may be closed. It’s important that you book any routine appointments with your practice in plenty of time and ensure that you have enough medication to last you over these times. Don’t use A&E as a back-up pharmacy, plan ahead.
Know when NHS services near your home are open. A&E and GP aren’t your only options. You’ll often be seen quicker at other NHS services, so check out NHS Choices for your nearest pharmacy, walk-in centre or minor injuries unit. It’s better to do this first, rather than face a long wait in A&E. Alternatively if it’s urgent, but not an emergency and you’re not sure what to do, call NHS 111.

  • Catch it, Kill it, Bin it.

 Almost everyone will have a cough or cold at some point this winter. Don’t spread your germs. Cough or sneeze into a tissue, put it in the bin and wash your hands to stop the spread of germs. It really is that simple. Use symptom relief from the pharmacy and take plenty of rest. The GP won’t be able to prescribe anything to help.

  • Cold outside? It’s the perfect excuse to eat well and wrap up warm.

Keep warm inside and out, by keeping active and having regular hot drinks and nutritious meals. If you have breathing problems even a small change in temperature can affect you. So take extra care.
A&E is only for emergencies.  The right NHS services are everywhere – we just need to stop and think – and then choose the right one.

Advice sheets for staying well if you are living with a long term condition

 
Resources for you