West Essex PCT advice this winter: ‘Be prepared’

WHILE local health services are ready to cope with demands over the winter, including over the festive holiday period, there is plenty you can do to prepare and help yourself.

Director of Nursing with NHS West Essex Jenny Minihane said: “It is important that people take steps to help themselves should they feel unwell.

“We want people in west Essex to get the right treatment in the right place.

“People need to think about where they need to go for treatment. I am sure that no-one wants to sit and wait in A&E for advice and treatment from a health expert, when they could have been seen quicker and more appropriately by their local pharmacist or GP.”

Be prepared - stock up at home

Keep a well-stocked medicine cabinet to help cope with common illnesses such as colds and flu, coughs, sore throats, indigestion and headaches. It is always helpful to include within your first aid kit a thermometer to check your temperature if you are feeling a bit feverish. Normal body temperatures should be around 36 to 37?C.

Make sure all medicines are in a secure place, out of reach of small children, and do not use them if they are out of date. Don’t take more than the recommended dose.

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Be prepared - don’t go to the wrong place

Minor accidents and unexpected health problems can happen day or night and it can be worrying when you are not sure what to do. However, many people who go to A&E do not need to be there. They could be treated more quickly by themselves with basic self-care or first aid, or following advice from their local pharmacist or GP.

Go to the place where you will get the right treatment:

* Self-care - for very minor illnesses or conditions you are best to look after yourself.

* NHS Direct - if you are unwell, unsure, confused or need help, call 0845 4647 or go to nhsdirect.nhs.uk, 24 hours a day.

* Pharmacist - for common coughs and colds, sickly stomachs and other common health problems that do not need to be seen by a doctor or nurse.

* Your GP - for medical advice, examinations and prescriptions for illnesses such as vomiting, ear pain, sore stomachs and back ache that haven’t settled after a few days of self care.

* Your dentist - for prolonged toothache and other urgent dental problems.

* Urgent Care Centre - for more severe illnesses or injuries such as cuts needing more than first aid, or to rule out a broken bone.

* A&E or 999 - for critical or life-threatening situations only eg choking, chest pain, blackouts or blood loss.

Be prepared - take up the offer of a free flu jab

As is expected at this time of the year, seasonal flu is circulating amongst the population. The swine flu virus is one of the predominant strains circulating and there are more cases of severe illness in people under the age of 65 than is normal.

For those that are eligible for a free flu jab, it is not too late: GP practices will be continuing to offer this well into the New Year.

The seasonal flu jab is offered free to every aged over 65 years, as well as anyone aged over six months with the following medical conditions:

* chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as severe asthma, COPD or bronchitis

* chronic heart disease, such as heart failure, kidney or liver disease

* chronic neurological disease, such as Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease

* diabetes

* a weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment).

In addition, pregnant women, at any stage in their pregnancy, are also strongly encouraged to have the free flu jab.

The majority of west Essex people who have ended up in hospital this year with complications following flu, have been pregnant women and younger people in these at risk groups.

Be prepared - to Catch it, Bin it, Kill it

Always make sure you have a tissue to hand. Preventing the spread of germs is the most effective way to slow the spread of flu:

* Catch it - use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze

* Bin it - put used tissues in a bin as soon as possible

* Kill it - ensure you wash your hands regularly with soap and water; clean surfaces regularly to get rid of germs