As the natural world begins to burst into life after the long winter, what better time to make some new health commitments?
The long dark nights are behind us and the weather is finally warming up; now’s the time to get active. Just getting out and about in our beautiful countryside can give countless health benefits – reduced stress, better sleep, feeling fitter and more energetic. Why not try a regular walk, find out what’s on offer at your local leisure centre or get on your bike for your very own ‘Tour de Yorkshire’.
If your New Year’s resolution to quit smoking only lasted until 2nd January, March’s No Smoking Day is a great time to try again. Giving up cigarettes is one of the hardest things you may ever have to do, but the right support can make all the difference. Ask at your GP practice or pharmacy for details of your local stop smoking group. Your GP will be able to advise on nicotine replacement options too.
Planning a holiday?
If you’re going abroad over the spring bank holidays or are planning a summer break, now is the time to check which vaccinations you need. Find out on the NHS website.
If you are travelling in Europe, check that your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is still valid, as it entitles you to reduced cost or free healthcare in EU member countries. If it has run out, or you’ve never had one, it’s free, and you can apply for it on the NHS website.
Summer is no joke for hay fever sufferers. Before you stock up on antihistamines, have a chat with your pharmacist – they will be able to advise you on the right combination of products and self-care to combat your hayfever. If your symptoms are so bad that they are interfering with our daily life despite taking antihistamines, see your GP.
Factor in the sun
We all know the drill when it comes to sun protection, yet many of us still get caught out, both abroad and here at home. Sunburn can be extremely unpleasant and can increase your chances of developing serious health problems, such as skin cancer, later in life. Use at least SPF15 suncream, avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day (11am–3pm) and cover up.
Protect your eyes! Remember it’s not just your skin that the sun can damage. A day at the beach without proper eye protection can cause a temporary but painful burn to the surface of the eye, similar to sunburn. Avoid looking directly at the sun, as this can cause permanent eye damage. Wear clothes and sunglasses that provide sun protection, such as:
- a wide-brimmed hat that shades the face, neck and ears
- a long-sleeved top
- trousers or long skirts in close-weave fabrics that do not allow sunlight through
- sunglasses with wraparound lenses or wide arms with the CE Mark and European Standard EN 1836:2005
It’s rare for our weather to get really hot, which is why it can be more dangerous if a heatwave does strike, simply because we’re not used to it. The key risks in hot weather are dehydration, overheating, heat exhaustion and heatstroke, which is a potential killer. The very young, the elderly and the seriously ill are particularly at risk, and hot weather can make heart and breathing problems worse.
Keep cool by wearing loose clothing, having cool baths or showers, and staying in the coolest room in the house. Drink plenty of cold fluids, but avoid alcohol. Check on any vulnerable friends or neighbours, and seek medical help if symptoms such as breathlessness, chest pain, confusion, weakness, dizziness or cramps get worse or don’t go away.
Fruit and veg fest
Autumn is the time when British fruit and vegetables are at their best and most abundant. Up your intake by making your own fresh soup, perfect for freezing for an easy workday lunch. You could try oven roasting a selection of veg to go with your evening meal. Or enjoy what’s left of the warmer weather to get out blackberrying for the ultimate homemade crumble. More information including recipe ideas are available on the NHS 5 a day website.
It’s flu jab time! If you’re over 65, or pregnant, or have a long term condition or weakened immune system, your GP practice will invite you to come for a flu vaccination. An annual flu vaccine nasal spray is also offered to healthy children aged two, three and four years old, and to children in school years one and two. Please have the vaccination: although most people feel rotten for about a week and then get over it, flu can have serious side effects for people at risk. If you’re a carer for someone with a long term condition, or an elderly relative, it’s important you are vaccinated too. Anyone can have a flu jab; if you’re not in one of the groups mentioned above you can still pay for a vaccination at your GP practice or in your pharmacy.
Keeping well during the winter months is underpinned by keeping warm. Now is the time, before the cold weather sets in, to look into local affordable warmth initiatives and to check if you’re eligible for cold weather payments. Check the North Yorkshire County Council website for advice, and the Affordable Warmth scheme website for details of free boilers and free cavity wall insulation.
Stock up for Christmas
With a few bank holidays coming up it’s important you get hold of your repeat prescriptions in plenty of time. It’s also worth making sure you have in some basic medicines such as painkillers and indigestion treatments. Find out what every home should have in the medicine cabinet.
Stop the spread
‘Winter vomiting’, ‘d and v’, ‘the lurgi’ – whatever you call it, one thing’s for sure… you’d rather not catch it! As winter comes and friends and colleagues start to look a bit green around the gills, it’s a fairly safe bet that viral gastroenteritis is the culprit. This describes diarrhoea and vomiting illnesses caused by a number of highly infectious viruses. Although the symptoms tend to last for only a few days, it’s very unpleasant. Large outbreaks can affect hospitals, schools and nursing homes, so if you have had a bug, it is very important that you don’t go back to school or visit people in hospitals/care homes until you’ve been symptom-free for 48 hours.
And the simplest way to prevent the spread of these unpleasant viruses? Wash your hands! Wards and care homes now have anti-bacterial gel at their entrances, so make sure you use it as you arrive and leave.
New Year’s resolutions
So, the first of January has come around again, and it’s time to combat the excesses of the festive season. Don’t put pressure on yourself by making a long list of resolutions you won’t keep. Focus on one only: stop smoking, get a bit more active, eat more healthily or give up the alcohol for Dry January. Whatever you choose, there’s plenty of advice on www.nhs.uk and support groups across our district. And before you know it, Spring will be here again!