As the Met Office has issued a level 2 cold weather alert for severe cold weather in the coming days, healthcare leaders in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are urging residents to take precautions. As well as getting vaccinated against Covid-19 and flu, stocking up on medication and keeping warm and active, residents are also being advised to look after their own physical and mental health and look out for each other.
Dr Jonathan Hayes, chair of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “Exposure to cold weather can adversely affect a person’s immune response, making it harder for the body to fight off infections, so it is especially important for vulnerable people to keep warm.
“During our national lockdowns, we saw incredible stories of people pulling together and looking out for each other. This winter we need residents to pull together again. We need everyone to check in on older neighbours, friends and family who may need a bit of extra help this winter. Taking a few minutes to ask if they need any shopping or medicines and making sure they are warm and comfortable can make all the difference
“As we face our second winter with coronavirus in circulation, we urge everyone to make sure they not only have their Covid-19 vaccinations and boosters, but also the flu vaccine.”
Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG has published seven tips for keeping well in cold weather:
• Protect yourself by getting vaccinated against Covid-19 and flu and follow the national Covid-19 guidance. You can find local vaccination details at grabajab.net
• Keep warm. Heating your home to at least 18°C, and wearing layers when outside will help prevent colds, flu and other more serious health problems
• Get help with heating costs. You may be able to claim financial help with heating your home. See the Winter Fuel Payment and Cold Weather Payment
• Keep active. Any exercise can bring health benefits, both physical and mental.
• Plan ahead. Make sure you have sufficient food and repeat medication so that you can cope if you’re unable to leave the house for a period of time.
• Get advice if you feel unwell. If you start to feel unwell, get help from your pharmacist or GP. If you have an urgent medical problem and you’re not sure what to do, go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.
• Look out for others. Check in on vulnerable neighbours, friends and family. Make sure they’re well, warm and have sufficient stocks of food and medicine so they don’t need to go out during very cold weather.
Sara Blackmore, South Gloucestershire Director of Public Health, said: “This year, it is more important than ever that we keep well by helping each other during periods of cold weather and protecting ourselves from Covid-19 and flu.
“As well as checking whether family members and neighbours need help to access shopping and medicines, it is also vitally important that we think about each other’s mental health and wellbeing. This time of year can be difficult, particularly for those who are vulnerable and isolated, so reaching out to a family member or neighbour can have a huge impact on their mental wellbeing, whilst of course remaining mindful of Covid-19 guidance.”
Residents who are worried about a relative or elderly neighbour, can contact their local council or call the Age UK helpline on 0800 678 1602 (8am to 7pm every day).
More information about how to stay well in the winter is available on the NHS website.