COLUMN: Simple steps you can take to ward off winter chills

John Sergeant, chairman of Community Pharmacy Derbyshire
John Sergeant, chairman of Community Pharmacy Derbyshire

Winter was much more fun when I was a child. Sledging, snowball fights, clouds of icy-breath and if we were really lucky, the odd day off school when the roads were impassable.

Nowadays I just want to stay warm and indoors in front of the fire with a nice cup of tea.
I suspect I’m not alone but it’s not as simple as just wanting to be comfortable and warm. When the temperature drops below 8°C some of us are at increased risk of heart attacks, stroke, flu, pneumonia, hypothermia and falls.
The ideal temperature is 18°C (64°F) in the bedroom and 21°C (70°F) in the living room. But, heating is expensive and if you’re on a low income this could be unaffordable. 
Keeping healthy and active makes a big difference to your resilience and ability to cope with the cold. Preparation is also the key and it is essential. If you start to feel unwell, even if it’s a cough or a cold, don’t wait until it gets more serious. Seek advice from your pharmacist who will be able to advise you on what would help, or suggest you may need to see your doctor if your symptoms are potentially more serious. 
Also, consider keeping simple cold, flu and sore throat remedies in the house in case you can’t get out. You should also ensure that you order your repeat medication in good time, so you don’t run out.
Having a flu jab can make a big difference to staying well during the winter. Many pharmacies provide a flu jab service, or you can see your GP if you prefer. Talk to your pharmacist who can tell you if you are eligible for a free NHS flu jab. If you’re not you could consider having a private flu jab.
By taking some simple precautions, and with a little advance planning, winter shouldn’t be a problem. Check out the Met Office’s cold weather alerts to get advance warning of cold weather conditions. Forewarned is forearmed and they will let you know when the winter weather is going to turn nasty.

l John Sargeant is chairman of Community Pharmacy Derbyshire