NHS West Essex urge people to be prepared to keep well this winter

NHS WEST Essex is urging people to be prepared to avoid health problems this winter. Director of Public Health at NHS West Essex, Alison Cowie, said: Be prepared and take steps to avoid health problems this winter. Having a well stocked medical box at

NHS WEST Essex is urging people to 'be prepared' to avoid health problems this winter.

Director of Public Health at NHS West Essex, Alison Cowie, said: "Be prepared and take steps to avoid health problems this winter.

"Having a well stocked medical box at home, remembering to 'Catch it, Bin it, Kill it', keeping your home warm and staying active are all ways that can help to protect you and your family."

General information:

- Ensure your medical box at home is well stocked and ready to deal with your family's needs. Both paracetamol and ibuprofen are available in liquid form for children, and can be given from the age of about three months. Always check with your pharmacist if you are not certain which medicines you can give your child

- If you fall ill, who will look after you? Agree with a family member, a friend or neighbour to help should you become unwell. Likewise keep an eye on elderly neighbours or others on their own

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Coughs, colds and flu information:

- Everyone can help reduce the spread of the swine flu virus and other bugs by remembering to 'Catch it, Bin it, Kill it': catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue, throw the tissue in the bin and then clean your hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser

- Many winter illnesses can be treated at home. If you feel unwell, stay at home and rest. If you are worried about your symptoms, contact your local GP or NHS Direct, on 0845 4647, for advice, ask your local pharmacist or go to an NHS Walk-in Centre. You can find more information at www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk

- Local residents aged 65 or over and younger people who are at risk of serious consequences of flu, including pneumonia, qualify for a free seasonal flu jab. Those at risk include people suffering from a serious heart or chest complaint including asthma and bronchitis, kidney disease, diabetes or lowered immunity due to disease or treatment, and those who have had a stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA). People with a chronic liver disease, Multiple Sclerosis or other degenerative conditions of the central nervous system may also be advised to have the jab by their GP

- To find out about getting a flu jab talk to your GP, practice nurse or pharmacist, visit www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk or www.immunisation.nhs.uk, go to NHS Direct Interactive on digital satellite TV, or call NHS Direct on 0845 4647

- Some people are at higher risk of developing complications after swine flu, and these people are being offered vaccination against swine flu as a priority. The groups at higher risk include pregnant women, people over 6 months of age with a chronic health condition (including heart, chest, kidney, liver and neurological diseases and diabetes) and people with lowered immunity. Local practices are making arrangements to invite and vaccinate all of the people eligible for the swine flu jab

- If you think you have swine flu, don't go to A&E, the Walk-in Centre, your GP or pharmacy. Stay at home and contact the National Pandemic Flu Service on 0800 1 513 100 (Textphone 0800 1 513 200) for advice. Information on swine flu is also available via the recorded information line on 0800 1 513 513.

Keeping warm information:

- Try to keep your house warm - a temperature of 21�C or 70�F is ideal. You may qualify for financial help; many people are eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment, and you automatically qualify if you receive a State Pension

- The Warm Front Scheme in England provides grants for insulation and central heating installation. Visit http://www.warmfront.co.uk or call Freephone 0800 316 2805

- Keep a hot water bottle handy. Thermal underwear, bed socks and an extra blanket can also provide warmth when temperatures drop. If you are heading outside, dress warmly, including a hat. It is better to wear several thin layers of clothing than one thick layer.

Staying active and eating healthily

- Eat well and healthily. Be sure to have at least one hot meal each day and warm drinks throughout the day. Try to eat at least five portions per day of fruit and vegetables, including canned and frozen varieties. Make sure you keep a good stock of food in case you become unwell or are not able to get to the shops

- It may be tempting to hibernate indoors during these shorter days, but regular exercise will help to keep you healthy. Keep up any regular activities and remember that your household chores can be counted as free exercise!