Winter Wellbeing

With beautiful frosty mornings and crunchy leaves underfoot, winter can be a wonderful time of the year. But winter can be a struggle for those of us who:

  • Have a long term health condition
  • Are over the age of 65
  • Have a disability
  • Are on a low income

In Public Health we have a responsibility to help reduce illness and injury, which can be influenced by cold weather. We know we’re stating the obvious but here’s why we do it…

This guide can help prepare you for the winter to keep well over the winter period.

Keep well

Flu is snow joke! Flu can lead to serious health issues such as bronchitis and pneumonia and make existing conditions worse.

Getting the flu jab is the easiest way to start protecting your health over the cold snap and vaccinations are available from all Bracknell Forest GPs and pharmacies.

You are eligible for the FREE jab if you:

  • Are aged 65 and over
  • Are pregnant
  • Are any age and have an underlying health condition (particularly long-term heart or respiratory disease)
  • Are a child aged two, three and four plus children in school years one, two and three.
  • Receive a carers’ allowance or are the main carer of an older person or a person with a disability.
  • Are a frontline health and social care worker

For more information take a look at our Flu and You page.

Remember, most coughs, colds, sore throats and other winter bugs can’t be treated by antibiotics so speak to a pharmacist before contacting your GP.  Pharmacists can help advise on over-the-counter remedies and what to do how to look after yourself until your illness passes.

If you are already taking medication, make sure your repeat prescriptions are in place or that you have safe levels of spare medication in case the weather stops you from going out.

If you are concerned that cold weather may make your condition worse, speak to your GP about self-management over winter and if you need a medicine review.

Keep warm

Stop winter from robin your warmth! Keeping warm is important for maintaining good winter health.

Heating your home to at least 18°C in winter poses minimal risk to your health when you are wearing suitable clothing.

  • Keep your home well ventilated
  • Use your electric blanket as instructed but don’t use a hot water bottle with it
  • Don’t use a gas cooker or oven to heat your home; there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Make sure you have a supply of heating oil or LPG or sold fuel if you are not on mains gas or electricity

Regular hot meals in winter? What a soup-er idea!

  • Keep yourself well-fed and hydrated with at least one hot meal a day. Food is vital for energy and energy keeps you warm.
  • Aim to include five daily portions of fruit and vegetables (tinned and frozen vegetables count!)
  • Several thin layers is better than one thick layer for insulation, and remove each layer as appropriate. Clothes made from cotton, wool or fleecy fibres are the best for maintaining body heat.

Keep active

Exercise can keep you warm in winter because it helps maintain blood circulation.

  • It’s important not to sit still for too long. Move around at least once an hour if possible.
  • Physical activity keeps the blood circulating, even wiggling fingers or toes will help
  • Doing strength and balance exercises each day is a good way to reduce risk of falls.

If you can get out and about, walking or taking up an exercise class at a local club can help maintain fitness levels but is also sociable and good for mental health. For local groups, activities and clubs take a look at our Community Map.

Get fit in a beginner friendly and supportive environment by joining one of our Fit for All classes, running across Bracknell Forest. Suitable for all ages and abilities, just £3 per session (first session FREE) and includes refreshments.

Speak to your GP before starting any exercise plans if you have a long term condition or are less physically able.

Keep safe

Don’t let ice drive you chestnuts!

When you go out:

  • Plan extra time, walk slowly and take more care of ice and wet leaves, concentrating on the path ahead of you.
  • Wear sturdy slippers with a good grip indoors and shoes with a good grip outside to prevent trips, slips and falls.
  • Use handrails where they are provided.
  • If you use walking aids, replace the rubber tips before they become worn out

If you’re staying in:

  • Make sure that your home is well lit to ensure you can see obstructions.
  • Try to keep hallways, walkways and stairways clear

For a FREE in-depth falls risk assessment, a Falls Prevention Assessment Clinic is held at the Assessment and Rehabilitation Clinic at the Healthspace, Brants Bridge, Bracknell. This is a referral only clinic.

If necessary you can then be referred onto the local Positive Steps Programme. This is a 6 week programme of exercises, balance and strength training as well as education on how to lower your risk of future falls.

Severe weather

Weather can be variable over winter and long, dark nights reduce visibility and ability to be active and interact with others.

The Met Office issues weather warnings and people can keep up-to-date by listening to TV or radio broadcasts.

Severe weather warnings are issued on the Met Office website, through the Met Office Twitter feed, and highlighted on radio and TV.  You can also ring the Weather Desk on 0870 900 0100.

Keep connected

No need to be frosty! Look out for your neighbours

If you have vulnerable neighbours or relatives try to find time to check on them when you can – even if it’s a phone call or video messaging.

  • If snow is likely then don’t forget to buy a snow shovel and to use it before any snow fall compacts. If you’re unable to do this yourself then why not ask a neighbour?
  • It’s OK to clear snow and ice from the pavement outside your home, your neighbour’s home and public spaces – refer to the Met Office Snow Code for more information.
  • Stay prepared for ice and snow. Know where to find grit bins in your area. These are refilled by the council but can be heavily used in bad weather and it may be necessary to your own salt supplied from garden centres, etc.