Cold weather can be a worry in later life. As we get older, our bodies respond differently to the cold which can leave us more susceptible to serious health problems. But with a little preparation, and by following some simple suggestions, you can stay healthy, safe and comfortable this winter. If you think we could assist at all over the Winter months, just get in touch.
Even if you don’t feel like it, staying active will not only keep you fit and healthy, it will also generate heat to keep you warm. If it’s not too cold, take a short walk in the middle of the day. Look for ways to keep active – get up and walk around, make yourself a warm drink and spread any chores throughout the day. Chair-based exercises are helpful if walking is difficult, along with moving your arms and legs and wiggling your toes.
Hot meals and drinks help to keep you warm, so eat at least one hot meal each day and have hot drinks throughout the day. Having a hot drink before bed and keeping one in a flask by your bedside are good ideas too. Include a good range of foods in your diet and aim for five portions of fruit and vegetables each day so you’re getting plenty of nutrients and vitamins. Remember that frozen vegetables are as good as fresh. Keep basic food items in the cupboard or freezer in case it’s too cold to go shopping. You could also do your food shopping online and get it delivered to your house. It’s important to eat enough, especially in winter. If you’re worried about a poor appetite, or are losing weight, speak to your GP.
Have a yearly flu jab
The flu is not only unpleasant, it can also develop into something more serious, such as pneumonia. If you’re over 65, or if you have certain health conditions the Government recommends that you get the flu jab every year. Flu viruses are constantly changing so vaccines are updated each year.
- You can get a free flu jab from your GP and some pharmacies if:
- you’re 65 or over
- you receive Carer’s Allowance, or you are the carer of a person whose welfare will be affected if you become unwell
- you have a long-term health condition – such as diabetes, a heart condition, asthma or lung disease, a kidney or liver problem, Parkinson’s, or if you have had a stroke
- you are living in a long-stay residential care home
Check if you’ve had the ‘pneumo’ jab
The ‘pneumo’ (or pneumococcal) jab is a one-off jab that helps protect you against pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia (a type of blood poisoning). If you’re over 65 and haven’t had one, ask your GP.
Keep your hands clean
Good hand hygiene is a simple way to avoid getting colds or flu and stop it spreading to other people. Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water, or use alcohol-based gel or wipes. Make sure to clean surfaces you are in contact with regularly, like your telephone, door handles and keyboard as germs can live on them.
Protect yourself from chilblains
Chilblains are itchy red swellings that occur when your skin gets cold and you try to warm up too quickly, often by sitting close to a radiator or other heating. If you experience these, dab the swellings with calamine or witch hazel to reduce itching, but don’t scratch them as this could cause an infection. To help prevent chilblains, keep your whole body warm at all times. Wear trousers, socks or thick tights and a scarf, hat and gloves whenever you go out in the cold. Speak to your pharmacist for advice on treating chilblains. If you get them regularly or if you have diabetes, speak to your GP.
Organise your medications
It’s important that you don’t run out of your medications. Make sure you order prescriptions ahead of time, just in case there is bad weather or you’re too unwell to go to the pharmacy. Also ask your pharmacy if they can deliver to you, if they don’t usually do this. It’s also a good idea to keep simple cold, flu and sore throat remedies at home, just in case you become unwell.
Keep your spirits up
It’s not unusual to feel down in winter – particularly when the days are short and it can get dark by 3.30pm. It can help to do something you enjoy every day. Try to keep to your usual routine and if you can’t visit friends or family, phone or Skype them often. Ask them if they could visit you more often. If you’ve been feeling down for several weeks and it’s stopping you going out, making you feel listless and lacking in energy, it’s very important to share these feelings with someone – perhaps a friend or your GP.