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NHS guidelines on staying well this winter


Winter is a busy time for the NHS and there are a huge range of services available, so knowing the best place to go to get help is important.

Using the right health services is not only good for individuals but helps the NHS as a whole by making sure resources are used in the right way.

Be winter ready:

  • If invited to then get your flu jab. This is most important if you are over 65, have a long-term illness, are under five or are pregnant.
  • Keep a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home. You can buy all the items you need from your local pharmacist or supermarket. Own-brand medicines are often considerably cheaper than branded medicines.
  • Keep yourself healthy by eating well and exercising.
  • You can help stop infections spreading by washing hands, cleaning surfaces regularly and coughing or sneezing into tissues and then throwing them away after use.
  • For conditions such as coughs and colds or a stomach bug, you are best off looking after yourself to begin with then seeking help if your condition doesn't improve.
  • For colds and flu it is best to rest, keep warm, drink plenty of fluids and take painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.
  • If you have norovirus (also known as the "winter vomiting bug"), then rest and drink plenty of fluids. You should also stay off work or school for 48 hours after the symptoms finish. If you can, stay away from other people who could catch the virus from you, particularly older people and children. Please don't visit relatives in hospital or care homes as norovirus spreads easily, can make patients very poorly and can lead to the closure of hospital wards or homes.

For 24-hour urgent health advice ring NHS 111.

Visit your pharmacist (chemist) for advice on medicines or when you are suffering from common ailments that don't need to be seen by a nurse or doctor, such as coughs, colds and sore throats.

If you have an illness that just won't go away, then make an appointment to see your GP or practice nurse or speak to them on the phone.

An Urgent Care Centre is available seven days a week at Hemel Hempstead Hospital (8am to 10pm), which can treat injuries such as sprains, cuts, grazes, bites, stings, burns and scalds and minor illnesses. St Albans City Hospital has a minor injuries unit, which is open seven days a week (9am to 8pm).