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Cold weather health advice from NHS Medway

Date: 02/02/2012           Category: Public Health

With freezing temperatures across Kent and Medway this week, the NHS is urging people at risk from the cold to take action to protect their health.

Overnight temperatures as low as -6C are forecast on Thursday by the Met Office, while the highest temperature expected in the day is just 2 or 3C.

Dr Alison Barnett, Director of Public Health for Medway, said: “When temperatures fall to sub-zero, the number of deaths from heart attacks peaks three days later, from strokes five days later and from respiratory infections ten days later, while icy roads and pavements dramatically increase the risk of injury.

“Going for a brisk walk on a very cold day can be exhilarating great fun – and very good exercise – but it is advisable that frail, older people and very young children stay at home in freezing weather, if they possibly can.”

People can take the following practical steps to minimise their risk from the cold:

Wear several light layers of warm clothes (rather than one chunky layer)
Have regular hot drinks and at least one hot meal a day. Eating regularly helps keep energy levels up during winter
Keep as active as possible indoors
Keep your home at the recommended temperature of 18–21°C (64–70°F). If you can’t heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room during the day, and the bedroom before you go to sleep.
The Government's 'Keep Warm Keep Well' campaign gives advice on help with heating your home. See:

Dr Barnett added: “Stopping smoking will boost your health for the winter, reduce your chances of a heart attack and improve your body’s circulation. People are four times more likely to succeed in quitting with help from an NHS professional. Medway’s Stop Smoking service is available on 0800 234 6805 or at www.smokefreemedway.co.uk.

“The best way to avoid falling ill with colds and flu is for everyone to remember to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, throw the tissue away promptly and wash their hands. Catch It, Bin It, Kill It to protect yourself and those around you."

NHS Direct can help if you are ill or injured and unsure what to do next, or you need help with finding a local service. Call 0845 4647 or see www.nhs.uk/nhsdirect.
Pharmacists can give advice about medication. Many are open late at night and on Sundays. Visit www.nhs.uk to find a pharmacy near you.

If you need to see a doctor, phone your GP practice. If you need an urgent appointment, they will do their best to fit you in.

If they can’t, they will be able to refer you to Medway On Call Care (MedOCC) or you can go to the walk-in centre in Canterbury Street, Gillingham, open from 8am to 8pm, 365 days a year. Walk-in sessions are also available in Twydall, Parkwood and Hoo – phone 01634 575232 for details.

If you need to see a doctor at night or weekends, please call MedOCC on 01634 891855.

Please remember that A&E and 999 are for serious or life-threatening conditions. Help keep them free for those who really need them.