The cold, dark, wintery weather at this time of year can make keeping healthy a real challenge for some. However, there are a few simple steps that people can take to keep themselves safe and well.

“There is always a clear link between the very cold weather and ill health and we want to do all we can to promote some very simple preventative measures to help minimise its impact on people” said Dr Hein Le Roux, Clinical Lead for Health and Wellbeing at NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

“Cold homes have a significant impact on people’s health, so keeping warm is really important. Exercise is also really important whatever your age – it’s the most effective thing you can do to keep actively involved in all the things you enjoy.”

Teresa Middleton, Deputy Director of Quality added:

“Winter can make existing health problems worse, so if you feel like you’re coming down with something, even if it’s just a cough or a cold, don’t wait until it gets worse. Act quickly and get advice from a pharmacist – the sooner you do this, the better.

Pharmacists are fully qualified to advise you on the best course of action, so go to see a pharmacist as soon as you start to feel unwell. This is often the best and quickest way to help you recover.

It is wise to be prepared, so make sure you have any prescriptions and medicines you might need before the holiday season starts. Doctors’ surgeries will be closed on all the public holidays, so anyone with a repeat prescription needs to make sure they collect enough medication to last them throughout the festive period. And remember to take your prescribed medication with you if you are visiting family or friends.”

Most community pharmacies can also help patients who need an urgent prescription for a supply of their normal prescribed medicines that they may have run out of. Instead of going to the out of hours service or A&E, patients can simply request their medicines from the local pharmacy, even if they are on holiday or visiting family.

Teresa also recommends keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home, with medicines such as paracetamol which can treat a number of everyday illnesses.

The following Top Tips should help people through winter:

• Drink plenty of fluids (water is best) and drink alcohol within sensible limits
• Get your flu vaccination from your GP surgery or a local pharmacy
• Seek immediate advice and help from a pharmacist as soon as you feel unwell, before it gets too serious, and ask for a medicines check-up if you take several medicines
• Get prescriptions before Christmas Eve and take your prescribed medicines as directed
• Keep your home warm, to at least 18 degrees C (65f)
• Keep an eye on elderly or frail friends, neighbours and relatives
• Keep active and take regular exercise
• Wear well-fitting shoes or slippers and keep your home well-lit and clutter free to avoid falling over
• Have your eyes checked regularly (if you are over 60, you can get a free check-up from your local optician)