Johnathan Laird is a Community Pharmacist in the UK. He has kindly allowed us to feature one of his recent articles as a guest blog post this week.
If you would like to reach Johnathan his e-mail address is Johnathan.firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @JohnathanLaird. His blog is www.johnathanlaird.wordpress.com. In this blog Johnathan advises us on steps we can take to stay as healthy as possible in the coming winter months.
Winter Health Advice
I have looked at a few of the common winter ailments that can touch even the healthiest of people. I have given a few simple tips to prevent or ease the symptoms in the cold winter months.
The common cold
We have all probably suffered from the common cold at one stage or another and have probably headed straight for the nearest pharmacy to buy some relief in the form of pain killers, decongestants and smelly menthol crystals to help ease the symptoms and clear our tubes!
The best advice to prevent getting the cold in my view is to wash hands thoroughly, use disposable tissues and keep household items that are shared like cutlery or glassware as clean as possible. A retired pharmacist that I once worked with said the difference between the common cold and the flu can be summed up as follows. You see £50 cash outside your window on a cold you day. If you have the common cold you would run out and get it sniffle a bit and return inside but if you have the flu you will stay in your bed!
The main cause of this in the winter months are viral infections. In the medical world we call these ‘self limiting’ illnesses. This simply means in the vast majority of cases that the sore throat will clear up in its own time. Over the counter remedies like paracetamol or ibuprofen are not bad for easing the symptoms. There are a wide range of medicated throat lozenges available over the counter to numb the sore throat. Generally I would try your pharmacy before going to the GP for sore throat.
The flu is again a viral infection that in healthy younger people will cause a range of quite unpleasant but not generally harmful symptoms. However if you are aged over 65 years of age or if you a long term disease like diabetes or asthma for example it is very strongly recommended that you go to the GP practice and get your flu jab. Turriff medical practice are currently administering the flu jab to those eligible. If you are not sure of your eligibility contact your nearest pharmacy or Turriff medical practice to check. Strachan pharmacy locally provides a private flu jab service for those who want it.
You may have noticed that dry skin can be more of a problem in the winter. My tip here is to apply moisturising lotion or cream only to damp skin after you have a bath or a shower. By doing this the cream or lotion is much more effectively absorbed and works better to add and retain the skin’s moisture.
This is the fancy medical term for the phenomenon in cold weather where your feet or hands get extremely cold and can change colour. In severe cases you should visit you GP for example if hands or feet are painful you should seek GP advice. However avoiding smoking, avoiding caffeine and basically wrapping up warm can help prevent the problem in the first place.
Venturing out into cold air can be a trigger for many folk that suffer asthma. The best advice here is to use your preventer inhaler as the dosage on the label instructs. It is also very wise to keep you reliever inhaler on hand should you need it. Wearing a scarf over your mouth and nose to warm the air you breath in can help prevent this problem in some asthmatics.
This again is a viral infection that generally takes its course and goes away after a few days. The usual symptoms are vomiting or diarrhoea. Good hand hygiene helps to prevent its spread. Again young children or the elderly are at risk here and should seek advice from pharmacy or GP practice. The best immediate treatment is to replace fluids and salts lost through vomiting and diarrhoea by using rehydration sachets that are available from your nearest pharmacy.
There is a phenomenon known as seasonal affective disorder that is common in this part of the world. It basically describes the problem of a drop in mood some people have as the nights draw in and the weather turns cold. In Turriff we have excellent professionals in the two pharmacies as well as in the health centre. If you are feeling a little depressed or down at this time of year then it can often be enough to share this with your pharmacist or GP. We will all listen carefully to find out how you are feeling and then give as much support as we can.
For the purpose of this article I have kept my advice to the illnesses common in winter that clear up themselves. If you are worried about symptoms you have related to these common illness or otherwise then please contact your pharmacist or GP for advice. This is the busy time of year for the health centre and local pharmacies so I speak for all when I say we really appreciate your patience as we approach our busy Christmas period. Stay warm and stay healthy!
For more information visit your local pharmacy or GP surgery. If you have an out of hours health issue contact NHS 24.