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Looking After Yourself and Others This Winter

At this time of year, as the Christmas decorations go up, many of us also come down with the all-too-familiar Christmas Cold.

Getting ill at any time is never fun, but being under the weather during the festive season can make what is often the best time of the year into something of an anti-climax.

But why does it happen?

Well, colds and other viruses like flu and covid spread more quickly when it’s cold. When temperatures drop, people spend more time indoors, which means that for every work night out, social gathering, or extended family Christmas, many people come together in enclosed spaces and share coughs and sneezes along with festive cheers.

Stress and alcohol can lower our immune systems and make us more susceptible to catching a new bug.

So, as we come to the end of what has been another challenging year for many, here are some tips to help you – and those around you – have a happy and healthy Christmas.


Boost your immunity

As we said, at this time of the year, our immune systems must work harder and with fewer resources to keep us well, so anything you can do to boost your immunity can make a big difference.

If you are eligible for a free flu jab or covid booster, we would encourage you to get it and give your body the best chance of fighting off viruses.

While you can no longer book flu or covid boosters through the NHS website, there are still walk-in clinics for covid jabs, and flu shots are available at many pharmacies.

Eat well and stay hydrated

While there is nothing wrong with sampling some festive treats (in moderation), it’s essential to continue to eat well. Keeping up your fresh fruit and vegetable intake, along with whole grains, nuts and seeds, which are all high in fibre, will give your immune system a bit of extra fuel to keep you well.

Staying well-hydrated makes a difference, too. Water is vital in helping regulate our body temperature, keeps our joints lubricated, delivers nutrients to our cells, and allows our blood to circulate freely. All of these boost our immune system.

Remember, alcohol weakens your immune system, so if you are drinking a bit more than you might normally do, make sure to balance that with healthy food and plenty of water.

Stay Warm

Keeping yourself and your home warm over the cold winter months can help to keep you healthy. This is especially true if you are older or have a health condition.

If you have asthma or another chronic condition affecting your lungs, a colder home can worsen breathing problems, especially if there are issues like dampness or mould.

If you can, aim to keep the rooms you spend the most time in around 18c/65f and ensure your windows are closed at night to stop drafts from dropping the temperature.

We know with energy costs as high as they are, the decision to switch the heating is more complicated than just being cold.

Newcastle City Council’s Warm Home Prescription Scheme can provide financial support for people with lung conditions or breathing problems who may struggle with their energy bills.

You can learn more about prescribing warmth and other types of support here.

There are also more than 70 Wellbeing Hubs across the city, offering a safe, welcoming space to get a free hot or cold drink, use a computer or charge your device. You can also get advice and suggestions to help with the cost of living crisis.

Think Pharmacy first for common conditions

If you get ill, remember that GP practices won’t be as open as usual. Take a look at our opening times here.

For a wide range of common illnesses, think Pharmacy first.

Community Pharmacists can offer advice and treatment for aches and pains, coughs, and colds, upset stomachs, skin care, ear care, eye care, urinary tract infections and more.

You don’t need to make an appointment to see a Pharmacist or be referred by a GP. Just find the nearest Pharmacy to you, check their opening times, and pay them a visit.

Look out for others

For various reasons, it can be a difficult time of year for some of us.

If you have friends, neighbours or relatives who are perhaps older, live on their own or might be frail or lonely, take the time to check in on them.

A friendly catch-up to check people are ok and have the food and medicine they need can make all the difference. It’s also an excellent way to remind people you are thinking of them and let them know you are there if they need you.

Age UK has lots of helpful advice if you are worried about an older person, as do the Samaritans if you are concerned someone may be struggling with their mental health.

Time to yourself

Lastly – and just as importantly – find time to look after yourself.

Stresses and worries that we carry through the year don’t disappear at Christmas, and if you have a busy social calendar, you might find yourself as flat out as you were before the holidays.

That’s why it’s crucial to find time just for yourself to rest, relax and recharge. Whether it’s curling up with a book, a long wintry walk or unwinding with friends, take the opportunity to prioritise your own health and wellbeing.