Winter conditions can be bad for our health, especially for people aged 65 or older, and people with long-term conditions such as heart or kidney disease, COPD, bronchitis, emphysema, asthma or diabetes.
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 stay well this winter.
Heating your home and keeping yourself warm are both important factors in staying healthy this winter. You can keep you and your family warm at home by following these simple guidelines:
- Wear several layers and use duvets and blankets. You can also use either a hot water bottle or electric blanket to keep you warm in bed. Be sure to adhere to the Electrical Safety First guidelines for electric blankets
- Set your heating to the right temperature (18-21 °C, 65-70 °F) to keep the rooms you use most in your home warm. Keep your bedroom windows closed at night when the weather is cold
- Have at least one hot meal a day and have hot drinks regularly
- Make sure you have your heating system checked regularly by a qualified professional. To ensure your safety, test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are working properly
- Prepare for the risk of flooding by staying up to date on flood warnings and having information to hand on managing the risks to your health in the case of a flood
- It is also important to ensure that your home or office is well ventilated, especially in the context of COVID-19. Visit World Health Organisation's advice on ventilation and air conditioning for more information.
Help is available to those who cannot afford to heat their homes adequately. The Treasury offers a winter bonus of £300 to qualifying people who are entitled to income support.
Visit Keeping warm for more information.
Get the flu vaccine
Flu can cause serious complications, especially for people aged 65 and over, pregnant women, and those with certain long-term health conditions such as diabetes and respiratory problems. It’s important to get the flu vaccine if you’re advised to.
The flu vaccine is safe and effective. It’s offered every year to protect people most at risk of flu and its complications. The most likely flu virus strains that will cause flu illness are identified in advance of the flu season and vaccines are then made to match them as closely as possible.
The best time to have the flu vaccine is in the autumn before flu starts spreading, but it is still worth getting later on as well.
Find out more about the flu vaccine and who it’s right for https://www.gov.im/flu
Respiratory and hand hygiene
By keeping your hands clean and ‘catching your cough’, you can help stop the spread of infection and keep our Island a healthier place. Here’s how:
Cleaning and drying your hands is one of the simplest, cheapest and most effective ways to stop the spread of germs. A third of infections can be prevented with effective hand hygiene, which means washing hands thoroughly with soap and water. Hospital wards, clinical areas and many shops also have alcohol hand gel dispensers available for staff and visitors to use.
Some key things to remember about washing your hands:
- Soap and water is the most effective way to wash your hands. If this is not readily available, you should use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Dry your hands well after washing.
- Everyone should wash their hands at these important times throughout the day:
- Before eating or preparing food
- Before touching your face
- After using the restroom
- After leaving a public place
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After handling your facemask
- After changing a nappy
- After caring for someone sick
- After touching animals or pets
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
As the common saying goes, 'coughs and sneezes spread diseases'. But by practising these simple principles of respiratory and cough etiquette, together we can minimise the spread of infection:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, dispose of the tissue promptly and wash your hands. Tissues should be disposed of in domestic waste.
- Cough into crook of elbow rather than your hand if you don't have a tissue.
- Do not use cloth handkerchiefs or reuse tissues - this can contaminate pockets or handbags, which then re-contaminate hands.
- Clean your hands frequently, especially after coughing, sneezing and using tissues
- Spatial separation (ideally more than one metre) of persons with respiratory infections in common waiting areas where possible
- Please protect hospital patients by avoiding visiting if you have a respiratory infection such as a cold or flu.
Visit our Handwashing page for more guidance.
The above wording has been adapted from https://www.cdc.gov for local use.
Contact your local pharmacist
Your local pharmacist is best placed to get you ready for winter. All pharmacists are registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council and are trained in the use of medicines. They can guide you on healthy lifestyle choices that will help you prevent illness in the first place. Your pharmacist can assist you in the following ways:
- Recommend which medicines should be in your cabinet to help get you and your family through the winter season.
- Suggest over the counter remedies to relieve symptoms of common winter aliments such as colds, minor skin conditions, upset stomachs or general aches and pain.
- Provide help and advice about your current prescription.
- Diagnose and treat many common ailments.
- Provide advice on looking after yourself and your family with guidance on healthy eating, physical activity, losing weight and stopping smoking.
A Vitamin D supplement is recommended throughout the winter months to help replace the lack of sunlight. Ask your pharmacist or visit our Vitamin D page online.
Many of us are having to spend more time at home which can make it harder to keep active. It’s important to continue to do what you can to help with your physical and mental health.
There’s strong evidence that people who are active have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression and dementia. Regular exercise can also reduce the risk of falling and can be beneficial for recovery if you do get ill.
You don't have to go to the gym. There are many activities you could do at home, such as walking up and down stairs, dancing, gardening, housework, chair based exercises or taking part in online fitness classes. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it’s something you enjoy and keeps you moving.
Read our Physical Activity for Better Health guide for information on recommended activity for each age group.
For things to do on the Isle of Man, which involve getting out and staying active https://www.ourisland.im/things-to-do
For a list of fitness classes open to the public as well as disability sports and junior activities visit Manx Sport & Recreation (MSR) at https://msr.gov.im/
Look after your mental health
Perhaps one of the most important considerations where health is concerned is your mental wellbeing. There are several factors that can contribute to our mood and it is important to identify these factors in ourselves and in others before they start to weight us down. Remember these important steps to address mental health. Visit www.areyouok.gov.im to find out more:
- Check in on friends, family and colleagues regularly
- Stay active with regular commitments, such as joining a walking club or signing up to a fitness class
- Give your time or do something nice for someone else
- Try new things, keep your learning fresh each day
- Take notice of things, start meaningful conversations
There are a number of resources available locally if you or someone you know is feeling low. Visit the ‘Are You Connecting’ page on www.areyouok.gov.im for a list of groups that can help and their contact details.
You can also visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/ for a useful list of tools to help address your worries and improve your mood.
The important thing to remember is that you are not alone. There is always someone there for you if you need help.
Some of the above wording has been adapted from https://www.nhs.uk for local use.