Dr Vaiyapuri Raja discusses how you can look after your health this winter and why it's important for at risk groups to get the Flu Jab.
Over the winter, we have to be extremely careful about how we look after ourselves as the cold weather and damp in our homes can really affect our health.
In our surgery, we see the impact of lung conditions increase during the winter period especially for people with long term lung conditions like COPD. The impacts of these illnesses – as well as heart disease, a closely related illness – get worse because of the temperature and the increased prevalence of certain viral infections in winter.
We have to make sure that our houses are adequately warm but not overheated, we need to try and get some fresh air every day and also make sure any prescribed medications are taken regularly to stave of serious illness.
But if there are any problems, or you come down with a cough or cold that stays for more than a week or you feel unwell, you must seek advice from a qualified medical person: either by calling NHS 111 or by talking to a pharmacist or your GP.
Another concern over the winter is the flu. Generally as people grow older, they have a reduced immunity. Patients with existing long term conditions like COPD, asthma and diabetes, those on immunosuppressant drugs or pregnant women can also have increased susceptibility to severe and life threatening infections if the patient gets the flu.
The flu vaccine can help prevent the flu, and for people that pick up the flu in spite of having the vaccination, the effect that the flu virus has on the body is very much subdued.
It’s very important to have the vaccine every year rather than depending on previous years’ vaccines because the strains of influenza virus will be completely different every year. Very robust predictive models determine what strains are likely that year and the predictions in general have been very effective.
The flu season and other illnesses common in winter have a huge impact on the availability of GP and nurse appointments. The Health Hubs have come as a blessing to Thurrock, which have provided us with another avenue for clinical appointments over the weekend especially for people unable to make it during the week.
Patients can have all their regular health monitored without having time off work and this is especially helpful during the winter months when we have to be a little bit more cautious about how we look after ourselves.
Remember there are many places to get useful medical advice. If you don’t feel that you need to see a doctor, you can talk to a pharmacist or call NHS 111 for 24-hour, non-urgent support.