November: Winter Wellness
With autumn leaves and Christmas on the way, winter can be a wonderful time of the year. But winter can be a struggle for those of us who:
- Have a long term health condition
- Are over the age of 65
- Have a disability
- Are on a low income
This guide can help prepare you for the winter to keep well over the winter period.
Flu is 'snow' joke!
Flu can lead to serious health issues such as bronchitis and pneumonia and make existing conditions worse.
Getting the flu jab is the easiest way to start protecting your health over the cold snap and vaccinations are available from GPs and pharmacies.
You are eligible for the FREE jab if you:
- Are aged 65 and over
- Are pregnant
- Are any age and have an underlying health condition (particularly long-term heart or respiratory disease)
- Are a child aged two, three and four plus children in school years one, two and three.
- Receive a carer's allowance or are the main carer of an older person or a person with a disability.
- Are a frontline health and social care worker
Remember, most coughs, colds, sore throats and other winter bugs can’t be treated by antibiotics so speak to a pharmacist before contacting your GP. Pharmacists can help advise on over-the-counter remedies and what to do how to look after yourself until your illness passes.
- If you are already taking medication, make sure your repeat prescriptions are in place or that you have safe levels of spare medication in case the weather stops you from going out.
- If you are concerned that cold weather may make your condition worse, speak to your GP about self-management over winter and if you need a medicine review.
Stop winter from 'robin' your warmth!
Keeping warm is important for maintaining good winter health.
- Heating your home to at least 18°C in winter poses minimal risk to your health when you are wearing suitable clothing.
- Keep your home well ventilated
- Use your electric blanket as instructed but don’t use a hot water bottle with it
- Don’t use a gas cooker or oven to heat your home; there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
- Make sure you have a supply of heating oil or LPG or sold fuel if you are not on mains gas or electricity
Regular hot meals in winter? What a 'soup-er' idea!
- Keep yourself well-fed and hydrated with at least one hot meal a day. Food is vital for energy and energy keeps you warm.
- Aim to include five daily portions of fruit and vegetables (tinned and frozen vegetables count!)
- Several thin layers is better than one thick layer for insulation, and remove each layer as appropriate. Clothes made from cotton, wool or fleecy fibres are the best for maintaining body heat.
Financial and other help with heating your home.
You can also check whether you may be entitled to financial aid for heating your home.
- People born after 5 May 1953 should automatically receive a Winter Fuel Payment by December if they receive State Pension or another social security benefit (but not Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction, Child Benefit or Universal Credit). If unsure, contact telephone details are available from the GOV.UK website.
- Cold Weather Payment (payment is automatic) are different to Winter Fuel Payments in that they are only paid if the average temperature is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below for 7 consecutive days. An automatic payment is made if you are eligible for specific benefits. Find out more from the GOV.UK website.
- Help with heating bills may be available from the Warm Home Discount Scheme if you get your electricity from specific suppliers. To find out if you meet eligibility criteria for a discounted bill, go to the GOV.UK website to find out which suppliers are taking part.
- The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) requires certain energy suppliers to fund efficiency improvements in the homes of some customers. To find out if your supplier can help you, you need to ask them directly. Free and impartial energy efficiency information though a number of consumer advice services such as The Energy Saving Advice Service in England (0300 123 1234).
Priority Service Registers
Some water and power suppliers operate a Priority Services Register (PSR) for older, vulnerable people or people with disabilities.
Signing up to a PSR means you can get extra help and support with your energy supply such as priority reconnection if your supply is interrupted. You need to:
- Contact your supplier to see if you’re eligible to sign up to the PSR
- If you have different suppliers for gas and electricity, you’ll need to call them both
- You’ll need to register again if you change your energy supplier
Exercise can keep you warm in winter because it helps maintain blood circulation.
- It’s important not to sit still for too long. Move around at least once an hour if possible.
- Physical activity keeps the blood circulating, even wiggling fingers or toes will help
- Doing strength and balance exercises each day is a good way to reduce risk of falls.
Don’t let ice drive you 'chestnuts'!
When you go out:
- Plan extra time, walk slowly and take more care of ice and wet leaves, concentrating on the path ahead of you
- Wear sturdy slippers with a good grip indoors and shoes with a good grip outside to prevent trips, slips and falls
- Use handrails where they are provided
- If you use walking aids, replace the rubber tips before they become worn out
If you’re staying in:
- Make sure that your home is well lit to ensure you can see obstructions.
- Try to keep hallways, walkways and stairways clear
Weather can be variable over winter and long, dark nights reduce visibility and ability to be active and interact with others.
- Severe weather warnings are issued on the Met Office website, through the Met Office Twitter feed, and highlighted on radio and TV. You can also ring the Weather Desk on 0870 900 0100.
No need to be 'frosty'!
- If you have vulnerable neighbours or relatives try to find time to check on them when you can – even if it’s a phone call or video messaging.
- If snow is likely then don’t forget to buy a snow shovel and to use it before any snow fall compacts. If you’re unable to do this yourself then why not ask a neighbour?
- It’s OK to clear snow and ice from the pavement outside your home, your neighbour’s home and public spaces – refer to the Met Office Snow Code for more information.
- Stay prepared for ice and snow. Know where to find grit bins in your area. These are refilled by the council but can be heavily used in bad weather and it may be necessary to your own salt supplied from garden centres, etc.
Self Care Week (Monday 13 to Sunday 19 November)
Are you thinking about changing your lifestyle to become a bit healthier?
Sometimes taking those first steps can be a little daunting and knowing where to start can be a real challenge. In Kingston, we have a range of healthy lifestyle services and programmes to help with all your healthy lifestyle goals. This booklet outlines some local services and programmes, which are either free of charge or have a discounted rate for participants referred by the NHS or the Royal Borough of Kingston's Public Health Team.
If you would like further information on any of the services or programmes listed, please call our confidential Healthy Lifestyle helpline on 020 8547 6815 or email [email protected].