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 websites.
- 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.
Matt Lenny, Director of Public Health and Regulatory Services for North Somerset Council, said:
Cold weather can pose serious health risks so it’s really important we all do everything we can to look after ourselves and each other.
I’d urge everyone to make sure they get vaccinated against both coronavirus and flu as vaccinations are essential to protecting our own health and that of people around us. Keeping warm is also vital. With energy prices rising some people might be worried about heating their home, but there is financial support available such as the warm home discount scheme, the cold weather payment and the winter fuel payment. If you’re worried please do get in touch with your energy supplier as they’ll be able to tell you what support you’re entitled to.
Our communities have been incredible during the last two years by coming together and supporting each other. This winter, please check in with older neighbours, friends and family who might need some extra help.
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.
Christina Gray, Director for Communities and Public Health in Bristol, said:
As the temperature falls, hospital admissions from cold-related illnesses increase. To help protect not only ourselves friends and family, but also our NHS and health colleagues, please take precautionary measures to reduce the risk of illness. Stay warm, stock up on medicines and supplies and look out for your community and check-in on those people who might need extra support.
With the Omicron variant in circulation, it is even more important that as many people as possible are vaccinated against both the flu and Covid-19. It is never too late to get your first Covid-19 jab, and our fantastic clinical teams are there to provide any support you need. If you’re eligible for a Covid-19 booster vaccine, please take it up.
If you or anyone you know needs any support to receive food, medicine and other necessities, please contact the We Are Bristol helpline on 0800 694 0184.
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.