It is more important than ever this year to get your flu vaccination if you are in a high risk group. This will help to protect you and your family by reducing the risk of getting flu. Although for many people flu is unpleasant, but not serious, for others it can cause serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
This year the Department of Health and Social Care has widened its offer of free flu vaccinations to more people:
- Adults 65 and over (aged 65 or over on 31 March 2021)
- People with certain medical conditions (including children in at-risk groups from 6 months of age)
- Pregnant women (any stage)
- Children aged 2 and 3 on 31 August 2020
- Children in primary school
- Children in year 7 (secondary school)
- Frontline health or social care workers
- Living in a long-stay residential care home or another long-stay care facility
- Receive a carer’s allowance, or you’re the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
- Live with someone who’s at high risk of coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list) or you expect to be with them on most days over winter
- You can also have the flu vaccine if you provide health or social care through Direct Payments (personal budgets) or Personal Health Budgets (such as Personal Assistants) or both.
Later in the year, the flu vaccine may be given to people aged 50 to 64. More information will be available later in the autumn.
The medical conditions that put you at more of a higher risk of complications if you get flu are:
- Chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma (that requires an inhaled or tablet steroid treatment, or has led to hospital admission in the past), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
- Chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
- Chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or cerebral palsy
- A learning disability
- A weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
- Being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)
If you are concerned you have an illness that increases your risk of complications if you get flu, discuss it with your GP.
Children aged between 6 months and 2 years who are eligible for the flu vaccine will receive an injected flu vaccine. Children eligible for the flu vaccine aged between 2 and 17 will usually have the nasal spray flu vaccine.
Where can you get your flu jab
Flu jabs are available from your:
- Pharmacy (over 18 year olds)
- Antenatal clinics (pregnant women).
All adults over 65 and people at high risk of pneumococcal infection should receive the one-off pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. These include:
- Adults aged 65 or over
- Children and adults with certain long-term health conditions, such as a serious heart or kidney condition.
Planning for cold weather
What’s on the way? The Met Office provides the weather forecasts for broadcasts on radio and TV, so listen in to these bulletins regularly to keep up to date with the weather.
Severe weather warnings are also issued on the Met Office website and on the TV and radio.
Staying Warm, Staying Well
To keep warm and well during periods of cold weather:
- Keep curtains drawn and doors closed to block out draughts
- Have regular hot drinks and at least one hot meal a day if possible – eating regularly helps keep energy levels up during winter
- Wear several light layers of warm clothes (rather than one chunky layer)
- Keep as active as possible
- Wrap up warm if you need to go outside on cold days.
If winter weather is expected make sure you have enough basic food supplies to last 3 days.
It’s also advisable to make sure you have sufficient supplies of any medications you are taking. It’s a good idea to keep a copy of your original prescription either with your medication or somewhere it can easily be found. This is so ambulance or emergency services staff can easily find out what medications you take if they ever need to take you to hospital or treat you in your home.
The Message in a Bottle scheme encourages people to keep medical information in a recognisable bottle placed in the fridge. Emergency responders know to look for a bottle if they see the message in a bottle sticker in your home. You can get a bottle and sticker from many GP surgeries, health centres or pharmacies.
If you use oil or solid fuel heating make sure you do not allow your stocks of oil or solid fuel to run low – remember to stock up before winter. Contact Rural Action Derbyshire for advice about buying oil or LPG on 01629 592970.
Icy conditions – icy pavements and roads can be very slippery. Take extra care if you go out and wear boots or shoes with good grip on the soles.
The Met Office advises putting grit or cat litter on paths and driveways to lessen the risk of slipping. It adds that you should wait until the roads have been gritted if you are travelling by car.
Bear in mind that black ice on pavements or roads might not be clearly visible, and that compacted snow may turn to ice and become slippery.
Keep your main living room at around 18–21°C (64–70°F), and the rest of the house at least at 16°C (61°F). If you can’t heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room during the day and the bedroom just before you go to sleep.
Maintaining your property
It is almost inevitable that your home will need repairs and maintenance at some point. However, there are some things that you can do to reduce the need for expensive repairs.
Homeowners need to plan for how they will pay for repairs. If you’re worried about finding a reliable contractor, see Derbyshire County Council’s Trusted Trader Scheme.
- Look for blocked downpipes. This is best done during heavy rain to see water coming down from any leaky joints
- In dry weather look for stained brick work
Check ground level gullies and drains to make sure they are clear of debris such as leaves, twigs etc
- Every autumn, clear gutters, hopper heads, flat roofs and drainage channels. It’s a good idea to do this in spring to deal with anything that might have found its way into the wrong place
- Overflowing gutter water may penetrate and cause internal damage
- Remove damaging vegetation from behind downpipes
- Fit bird/leaf guards to tops of soil pipes and rainwater outlets to prevent blockages
- Have gutters re-fixed if they are sloping the wrong way or discharging water onto brickwork
- Do not undertake routine maintenance at high level unless you are accompanied and have suitable equipment, or seek help from a professional
- Internally, try to prevent condensation which in turn my lead to mould growth and deterioration of furnishings etc
- If you have timber windows, ensure that they are painted and resealed on a regular basis to prevent the timber from becoming exposed to damp.
Insulating your home can save you money on your fuel bills and make your home a warmer more comfortable place to live. It also helps to keep you cooler during the summer.
Cavity wall insulation – around a third of all heat lost in an un-insulated home is lost through the walls. Having cavity wall insulation is a good way to reduce the amount of energy you need to heat your home and could save you around £145 a year on your fuel bills.
Loft insulation – without proper loft insulation a lot of the energy used to heat your home will be lost through the roof. The recommended depth for loft insulation is 270mm and if you don’t already have it this could save you around £130 per year on your energy bills.
Solid wall insulation – if your home was built before or around 1920 its external walls are likely to be solid rather than having cavity walls. If you have solid walls you can insulate them with external or internal insulation saving you around £245 a year on your energy bills.
Floor insulation – insulating beneath floorboards will reduce heating bills and improve the comfort of your home. You could save between £40-£55 a year by insulating your floors. Gaps and cracks around floors and skirting boards are easy to fill yourself using sealant.
Draught proofing – using strips and excluders around draughty door and window frames can save between around £25 a year on heating bills.
Tank and pipe insulation – tank and pipe insulation keeps your water hotter for longer by reducing the amount of heat that escapes.
For more information contact your local council or view the Energy Savings Trust website.
Damp, mould and condensation
Dampness can cause mould on walls and furniture and rot timber window frames, floors and skirting boards. It also encourages the growth of house dust mites and can increase the risk of respiratory illness in some people.
What is condensation?
Condensation is caused when moisture held in warm air meets a cold surface like a window or wall and condenses into water droplets. If it happens regularly mould growth may start to grow.
Look for it in corners, on or near windows, in or behind wardrobes and cupboards. It often forms on north facing walls.
When does condensation occur?
All houses are affected by condensation at some times. It usually occurs when a lot of moisture and steam is produced, for example:
- When cooking
- Having a bath or shower
- Washing clothes
- Drying clothes inside
- During cold nights when bedroom windows mist up.
How to avoid condensation
Some ordinary daily activities produce a lot of moisture quickly, to avoid these:
• Cover pans and do not leave kettles boiling
• Dry washing outdoors on a line or put in the bathroom with the door closed and the window open
• Vent tumble dryers using proper vent kits
• Make sure your home is insulated
• Heat the whole house rather than one or two rooms.
Why is condensation a problem?
Condensation can damage both your home and your health. It can provide ideal conditions for mould to grow, which causes black patches on walls and fabric. Severe mould growth has negative impact on asthma and other respiratory illness, due to inhalation of mould spores.
Condensation can lead to mould growth. Mould is a fungus that will grow wherever there are damp surfaces in houses.
Ventilation to remove moisture
You can ventilate your home without causing draughts:
- Keep a small window ajar or a trickle ventilator open when using the room
- When cooking, the kitchen should be ventilated. Use the extractor fan or open the window
- Keep the kitchen door to the rest of the house closed. This will help to prevent moist air circulating through the house
- When bathing or washing keep the bathroom door closed. Use the extractor fan or open the window. After you have finished keep the fan on or window open to allow the water vapour to disperse. Leave the door closed.
If you have damp, check for the following problems:
- Rubbish or soil piled up against the house above the level of the damp proof course
- Missing or slipped roof tiles
- Damaged flat roof coverings
- Damage to brick work or external rendering
- Rotten or leaking window sills and/or frames
- Broken and blocked guttering or rainwater in down pipes
- Blocked or missing air bricks
- Crumbling brickwork or rendering to chimney stacks.
How can you remove mould?
- A solution of water and vinegar will remove light mould staining on hard surfaces
- To kill and remove mould, wipe down the walls and window frames with fungicidal wash
- Dry clean mildewed clothes and shampoo carpets – vacuum cleaning will disturb mould spores
- After treatment, redecorate using good quality fungicidal paint to help prevent mould recurring.
The only lasting way of avoiding severe mould growth is to eliminate the source of damp.
Installing water meters
If you think your water bill is high it might be worth installing a water meter. As a rough rule of thumb, if there are more or the same number of bedrooms in your house than people, check out getting a meter: e.g. if you are a couple living in a house with 2 or more bedrooms a water meter may save you money. Some households use more water than others and this can also be a factor.
Existing unmetered water bills are based on the ‘rateable value’ of your property. Before 1990, councils assessed homes to produce rateable values, and they were based on what rent homes could raise in the private market. Criteria for rateable values included the size of the property. Since 1990 all new homes have been fitted with water meters.
If you do get a water meter installed and subsequently decide it would have been cheaper to pay the rateable value of your previous bill, Severn Trent offer a two-year cooling off period after the meter is installed during which you can change your mind and return to the previous billing system based on rateable value.
You can find out more about water meters on the Severn Trent website.
Alternatively call the Seven Trent helpline (charged at a local rate) which can tell you more about water meters over the phone: 0345 7500 500.
The effects of cold on health
Cold winter temperatures and living in a cold or under heated house can cause physical effects such as thicker blood, increase in blood pressure and tightening of the airways; making people who already have chronic health conditions even more vulnerable.
There is also a link between the onset of cold weather and deaths from both heart attacks and respiratory illnesses. Older people are particularly at risk as they do not feel the cold until their body temperature falls.
There is also evidence linking reduced immune function with cold chills and hypothermia. It is important therefore to keep up to date with flu jabs and regular check-ups before and during cold weather.
The three main areas of physical illness affected by cold
It is possible to split the large number of possible health conditions affected by cold into three main categories: respiratory, cardiovascular and conditions which affect your mobility by restricting the movement of your muscles.
The following checklists highlight the main symptoms and conditions which may appear or worsen during cold weather.
Respiratory symptoms: Increased mucus secretion, shortness of breath. Specific respiratory conditions worsened by cold weather include COPD and asthma.
Cardiovascular symptoms: chest pain, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath. Specific cardiovascular conditions worsened by cold weather:
- Coronary heart disease, angina, hypertension/blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), heart failure, TIA/mini stroke.
- Diabetes is considered a ‘gateway’ condition into cardiovascular illness. Over the winter months patients of all diabetes types tend to have higher levels of HbA1c (glycated haemoglobin). Sugar levels tend to creep up when the temperature drops.
Mobility symptoms: stiffness, swelling, restricted movement, pins and needles, and muscle weakness. Specific mobility conditions worsened by cold include Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, and an increased number of injuries caused by falls.
Mental health and the cold
Damp, cold housing is associated with an increase in mental health problems such as depression, stress and anxiety.
Some people may become socially isolated if they live in a cold home as they may be reluctant to invite friends or family to visit, while others might seek refuge elsewhere as an alternative to staying in their own home which can cause instability.
Sudden temperature changes can affect health adversely. Even if your home is kept in the ‘safe zone’ (between 18–21°C) suddenly stepping outside or moving to a much colder part of the house can place a strain on your body. To a fit and healthy person this may not be a problem. However; for the elderly and people with health conditions sudden changes of temperature from hot to cold (or vice versa) can be dangerous or even life threatening.
The effect of a cold home on children
Living in a cold home doesn’t just affect old or ill people. Poorly heated homes can have a significant impact on children’s health, affecting infant’s weight gain and development and increasing the frequency of asthmatic symptoms.
Growing up in a cold home may also have a negative impact on the development and emotional wellbeing of babies, children and teenagers. This may impact on educational achievement and worsen chance later on in life.
The safe zone
People with health conditions affected by cold are advised to keep the heating on for long enough to keep illness under control. By keeping your house in the safe zone between 18°C and 21°C you will decrease the chances of your health condition worsening while inside the home. Because sudden changes from hot to cold can also be dangerous, it is important to keep the most used rooms of your house heated to prevent sudden temperature changes. In reality, this means heating your living room, bathroom and kitchen when you are in the home if possible, try to make sure your bedroom is warm when you get up and before you go to bed. Finally, make sure you dress warmly and put on outdoor footwear before stepping outside into much colder air.
Extreme heat can be dangerous for anyone and it’s best for your health to avoid get- ting too hot in the first place. Remember to think of those who may be more at risk from the effects of heat.
Those at higher risk include those over 75 years old, those living on their own or in care homes, those with ill health including heart conditions, diabetes respiratory or renal illness, homeless people, and other long term conditions. Others affected are those who are unable to adapt behaviour to keep cool e.g. people with dementia, those who are bed bound, the disabled, babies and the very young, and those consuming too much alcohol. Below are some tips to keep you and others cool and what to do if someone feels unwell:
Stay out of the heat:
- Keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm
- Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothes. If you have to go out in the heat, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat and light scarf and sunglasses.
- Avoid extreme physical exertion. If you can’t avoid strenuous outdoor activity (sport, DIY, gardening) keep it for the early morning/evening.
Cool yourself down:
- Have plenty of cold drinks, and avoid excess alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks. Eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit with high water content
- Take a cool shower, bath or body wash. Sprinkle water over the skin or clothing, or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck.
Keep your environment cool:
- Keeping your living space cool is especially important for infants, the elderly or those with chronic health conditions or those who cannot look after themselves
- Keep windows that are exposed to the sun closed during the day and open windows at night when the temperature has dropped
- Close curtains that receive morning or afternoon sun. However, care should be taken with metal blinds and dark curtains, as these can absorb heat, consider replacing or putting reflective material in-between them and the window space
- Place a thermometer in your main living room and bedroom to keep a check on the temperature
- Turn off non-essential lights and electrical equipment – they generate heat
- Keep indoor plants and bowls of water in the house as evaporation helps cool the air
- If possible, move into a cooler room, especially for sleeping
- Electric fans may provide some relief, if temperatures are below 35°C (95°C). At temperatures above 35°C fans may not prevent heat related illness and may cause dehydration. The advice is not to aim the fan directly on the body and to have regular drinks. This is especially important in the case of sick people confined to bed
- If you find your home to be uncomfortably hot and have concerns about it affecting yours or someone else’s health, seek medical advice and advice from the environmental health dept within your local authority
- Use pale, reflective external paints
- Have your loft and cavity walls insulated, heat is kept in when it is cold and out when it is hot
- Grow trees and leafy plants near windows to act as natural air- conditioners.
Look out for others:
- Keep an eye on isolated, elderly, ill or very young people and make sure they are able to keep cool
- Ensure that babies, children and elderly people are not left alone in stationary cars
- Check on elderly and sick neighbours, family and friends
- Be alert and call a doctor or social care if someone is unwell or further help is needed.
If you have a health problem:
- Keep medicines below 25°C or in the refrigerator (read the storage instructions on the packaging) – it’s also advisable to keep a copy of your prescription either with your medication or somewhere it can easily be found. This is so ambulance or emergency services staff can easily find out what medications you take if they ever need to take you to hospital or treat you in your home
- Seek medical advice if you are suffering from a chronic medical condition or taking multiple medications
If you or others feel unwell:
- Get help if you feel dizzy, weak, anxious or have intense thirst and headache; move to a cool place as soon as possible and measure your body temperature, drink some water or fruit juice to rehydrate.
- Rest immediately in a cool place if you have painful muscular cramps (particularly in the legs, arms or abdomen, in many cases after sustained exercise during very hot weather), and drink oral rehydration solutions containing electrolytes.
- Medical attention is needed if heat cramps last over an hour
- Consult your doctor if you feel unusual symptoms or if symptoms persist.
Seek advice if you have any concerns:
- Contact your doctor, a pharmacists or telephone NHS 111 if you are worried about your health during a heat wave, especially if you are taking medication, if you feel unwell or have any unusual symptoms
- Watch for cramps in your arms, legs or stomach, feelings of mild confusion, weakness or sleeping problems
- If you have these symptoms, rest for several hours, keep cool and drink water or fruit juice. Seek medical advice if they get worse or do not go away.
If you suspect someone has heatstroke
Remember, heatstroke can kill. It can develop very suddenly, and rapidly leading to unconsciousness. If you suspect someone has heatstroke, call 999 immediately. While waiting for the ambulance:
- If possible, move the person somewhere cooler
- Increase ventilation by opening windows or using a fan
- Cool them down as quickly as possibly by loosening their clothes, sprinkling them with cold water or wrapping them in a damp sheet
- If they are conscious, give them water or fruit juice to drink
- Do not give them aspirin or paracetamol.
For information on the weather forecast, how to protect your health during a heatwave, how to minimise ultraviolet ray induced skin and eye damage and advice on air pollution, view the Met Office website. Further information can be found on the NHS Summer Health website.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels, including gas, oil, wood and coal. It is only when the fuel does not burn properly that excess CO is produced, which is poisonous.
What preventative measures can I take against carbon monoxide exposure?
Ensure all work carried out to gas appliances is undertaken by a Gas Safe Registered engineer. It is advised that gas appliances and/or flues are serviced every year for safety. If you live in tenanted accommodation, your landlord has a legal duty to carry out an annual gas safety check and maintain a gas safety check certificate.
Always make sure there is enough fresh air in the room containing your gas appliance. If you have a chimney or a flue ensure it is not blocked up and also ensure that vents are not covered. Get your chimney swept from top to bottom at least once a year by a qualified sweep. If you have appliances that use other fossil fuels, make sure they are serviced and maintained by a competent person.
Carbon monoxide alarms are a useful back up precaution but they must not be regarded as a substitute for proper installation and maintenance of gas appliances. Before purchasing a CO alarm, always ensure it complies with British Standard EN 50291 and carries a British or European approval mark, such as a kite mark. CO alarms should be installed, checked and serviced in line with manufacturer’s instructions.
How do I know if I am at risk of carbon monoxide? (Signs of incomplete combustion include):
- Yellow or orange rather than blue flames (apart from fuel effect fires or flue less appliances which display this colour flame)
- Soot or yellow/brown staining around or on appliances
- Pilot lights that frequently blow out
- Increased condensation inside windows.
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Early symptoms of CO poisoning can mimic many common ailments and may easily be confused with food poisoning and viral infections.
Symptoms to look out for include:
- Stomach pains
- Visual problems
- Loss of consciousness
- Pains in the chest
- Erratic behaviour.
If you or your family experience any of the above symptoms and you believe CO may be involved, seek urgent medical advice from your GP or an Accident and Emergency Dept. Ask for a blood or breath test to confirm the presence of CO. Be aware that CO quickly leaves the blood and tests may be inaccurate if taken more than four hours after exposure has ceased.
For more information telephone NHS Direct on 111.
What should I do if I think my appliance is spilling carbon monoxide?
- Switch off the appliance and do not reuse until remedial action has been taken
- Open all doors and windows to ventilate – DO NOT SLEEP IN IT
- Visit your GP urgently and tell him/ her that your symptoms may be related to carbon monoxide poisoning and request either a blood and/or breath sample test
- Make arrangements for a Gas Safety Registered engineer to make repairs. Contact: 0800 408 5500 email: email@example.com or visit their website.