With the clocks going back this weekend and winter fast approaching, Norfolk County Council’s Public Health department and its partners are encouraging people to look out for others who may struggle to cope during colder weather with their Stay Well This Winter campaign.
Older people are particularly vulnerable during the winter. While cold weather itself doesn’t often directly make people ill, it can contribute to conditions that lead to illnesses including stroke and heart attack. Flu viruses are also more stable in cold air, making it easier for them to spread and leading to more cases of flu during the winter, which can be life-threatening to some vulnerable people. Stay Well This Winter aims to make people aware of what they can do to keep themselves and their family, friends and neighbours in good health during the colder months. The campaign is encouraging everyone in Norfolk to do five things that will help prevent vulnerable people being put at risk this winter:
- If you or someone you know is eligible to get a free flu jab on the NHS, make sure they get it. All adults aged 65 and over are eligible to have the free flu jab, as are pregnant women and children aged six months to two years at risk of flu. People can get the free flu jab at many pharmacies, as well as at flu jab clinics at their GP surgery. Find out if you or someone you know is eligible for the free flu jab at www.nhs.uk/flujab.
- Ensure your home or a vulnerable person’s home is well-heated and insulated – living in cold, damp or mouldy rooms can affect your health. Heat your home, or at the very least the rooms you use regularly, to between 18 and 21°C. If keeping your home warm is a struggle, there is financial help available. For help with paying heating bills, people can apply to the Surviving Winter fund from early November, for more details visit www.norfolkfoundation.com. To find out if you can get help to make your home more energy efficient, visit: https://www.gov.uk/energy-grants-calculator
- Make sure you or someone you know is keeping warm by dressing appropriately for the cold, wearing layers, moving around regularly if possible and eating hot meals and drinking hot drinks. If you know someone who struggles to prepare nutritious hot meals, meals on wheels may be a good solution. Visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/mealsonwheels for more information.
- In periods of cold, icy or snowy weather, it may be difficult for some vulnerable people to get out and about and carry out their usual routine safely. This could mean tasks like picking up prescriptions and buying food go undone, putting people at greater risk of becoming unwell. Check in on people you know who may struggle in wintry weather and consider offering them what support you can to help them cope. If you think someone’s safety is at risk, contact Norfolk County Council on 0344 800 8020. In an emergency always ring 999.
- Some people, particularly older people, may be at extra risk of injury from falling during the winter, both because of ice and snow and because the cold can reduce people’s mobility, exacerbating conditions such as osteoarthritis and weakening muscles. Falls are the most frequent and serious type of accident in people aged 65 and over, and are the main cause of disability and the leading cause of death from injury among people aged over 75. Reduce the chance of falling over and resulting injury by strengthening muscles through exercise (a programme of sitting exercises can be found on the NHS website) and by having well-fitting footwear with good grip on the sole – in both shoes and slippers. Visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/staywellthiswinter.
As well as promoting advice and useful information, Norfolk County Council has joined with Community Action Norfolk* to create a Stay Well This Winter fund, which is open for applications now. Grants of up to £1,000 are available to support voluntary groups and charities that work to assist vulnerable people in their local community who face particular hardship over the winter months.
For more information about Stay Well This Winter, visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/staywellthiswinter.