People living in Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre have been urged to be ready for winter – as the NHS prepares for what could be its busiest ever.
Cold weather can trigger a flare-up of symptoms for people who already have conditions that affect their breathing, but with cases of COVID-19 continuing to rise, health services are braced for a surge in demand.
The darker nights often put people off going out for exercise and colder weather brings more chances of accidents due to ice. By planning ahead and making sure you are prepared you can avoid all of these and keep yourself safe.
Dr Ben Butler-Reid, a Blackpool GP and clinical director for NHS Blackpool and NHS Fylde and Wyre Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), said: “Winter is a difficult time for the NHS and the best way we can make sure services don’t get overwhelmed is to make sure people do what they can to care for themselves.
“This is especially important for those who could experience flare-ups in their condition are prepared and prevent themselves needing hospital admittance.”
People with respiratory diseases (conditions that cause breathing problems), such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or severe asthma, can be particularly prone to the effects of cold weather, becoming short of breath and coughing more than usual.
Christopher Jackson, Clinical Lead & Respiratory Nurse Specialist at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It is essential that those who have a long-term respiratory condition to understand how to look after themselves, activate their self-management plan and where and when they must seek further advice or support. Even more so because of COVID-19.”
“People with respiratory conditions must ensure they have a supply of their inhalers and they are using them correctly. Those whose condition could get worse should have access to ‘rescue medication’ and review this with a health care professional.”.”
Below are some general tips for keeping well throughout the winter months.
Firstly, it is important to keep warm by wearing layers of clothing when it is cold. This may sound obvious, but is something people too often forget or don’t plan for.
Keeping the home warm is also crucial. The optimum room temperature is 21 degrees in the living room and 18 degrees in the bedroom. It is better to make sure the bedroom is nice and warm before going to bed to ensure you stay comfortable throughout the night.
Staying active and doing some light exercise can also be extremely helpful by keeping the blood circulating and the body warm.
Appropriate exercise is generally good for strengthening lung health at any time of year. If you have a lung condition, your doctor will be able to advise you of a suitable level of exercise for you and local places where you can do this if you can’t do it in the home.
Plan ahead with your medication
A well-stocked medicine cabinet is always a good idea but in winter it is even more important. Simple items such as cough and cold remedies, first aid kits and painkillers can all be purchased from your local community pharmacy.
Those on medication should carry it with them and people who have been prescribed bronchodilators (medication to help people breathe) should use them half an hour before leaving the house to prevent the cold weather causing a sudden tightening of the airways when they are out.
Get your flu vaccination
There are often outbreaks of flu in periods of cold weather, so anyone eligible should contact their GP to take advantage of the free flu vaccine they are entitled to, if they haven’t already.
If your symptoms become severe, get in touch with your GP or call 111 if you feel you can’t wait.