RESIDENTS are being encouraged to take preventative precautions to keep well this winter.
There is a reminder for people to take-up the free flu vaccine if they fall within the most at risk groups. Take up this year has been particularly low amongst pregnant women in the south Reading area.
Whilst most people who get the flu will have a mild illness, pregnant women – as well as children, and people with long term medical conditions, are more likely to get flu complications. The free vaccine is available at GP surgeries and in most local pharmacies.
The Council’s annual Winter Watch scheme is also underway. The scheme provides practical support and information on keeping warm during the colder months.
Winter Watch helps at-risk groups including pensioners, people with serious illnesses and disabilities, people on a range of benefits including families with young children. Support on offer includes:
- Home energy checks;
- Access to grants for insulation;
- Provision of emergency heaters and bedding;
- Emergency energy payments.
Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Lead Member for Health, said:
“By being prepared, we can minimise the dangers cold weather brings and keep ourselves, our loved ones, friends and neighbours well this winter.
“Older people are at particular risk of health problems, as are children and people with disabilities or long term illnesses. If anyone feels they are struggling to keep warm or indeed knows any neighbours who they think may need help, then please contact the council to find out more about how the Winter Watch scheme can help.
“Additionally, don’t put off getting the flu vaccination; if you’re eligible get it now. It’s free because you need it. The vaccination is a quick, free and effective way to be protected from flu. No one wants flu and getting vaccinated now is the best way to prevent this highly unwelcome illness.”
As well as encouraging people to get their repeat medicines in good time, the NHS Stay Well This Winter campaign urges people to prepare for winter with advice on how to ward off common illnesses, including:
- Keep yourself warm – if you can, heat your home to least 18 degrees C or (65F);
- If you start to feel unwell, even if it’s just a cough or a cold, then get help from your pharmacist quickly before it gets more serious;
- Make sure you have enough food and medicine – get your repeat medicines in good time this festive period;
- Check you have medication at home to deal with minor injuries and common ailments like coughs, sneezes, colds and upset stomachs.
A useful number to call out of hours is 111 (the NHS non-emergency number). It’s fast, easy and free to speak to a highly trained adviser, supported by healthcare professionals. They will ask a series of questions to assess symptoms and immediately direct people to the best medical care.
The groups being offered the free flu vaccine are:
- pregnant women;
- those aged 65 or over;
- carers of elderly or disabled people;
- people who have an underlying health condition such as diabetes, chronic respiratory, heart or kidney diseases, neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, weakened immune systems, liver disease and those recovering from strokes.
Children aged 2, 3 or 4 can be vaccinated via a painless nasal flu vaccine available at their general practice and this can usually be done by seeing the practice nurse.
The immunisation team from Berkshire Health Foundation Trust will be offering the free flu nasal vaccine to children in school years 1, 2 and 3 during the autumn term. The pilot scheme to vaccinate primary school children during 2014/15 has yielded extremely positive results.
It is vital that those who are eligible have the free flu vaccine every year to protect them against different flu strains that are circulating.
Just over 10 per cent of homes in Reading have at least one member affected by a long term illness or disability and an estimated 6,695 households in Reading – almost 11 per cent – are considered ‘fuel poor’ and will struggle to afford the cost of heating their homes.