Staying Well this winter – are you prepared?

As winter bugs start rise across the UK health professionals in Cornwall are reminding people how to care for themselves at home and when to seek help if symptoms become severe.

NHS Kernow Governing Body member Dr Rob White is offering advice to people to help keep bugs at bay.

He said “Post-Christmas get-togethers and this week’s return to school are primetime for winter bugs to do their worst and spread rapidly.

“We can reduce their impact by taking simple steps with thorough handwashing and following the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ advice for those coughs and sneezes.

“If you are unfortunate enough to get a bad cold, flu or norovirus, these are all bugs that can usually be managed at home and symptoms eased with over the counter medicines. Don’t take your symptoms to the GP; ask a relative or friend to go to the pharmacy for you, visit www.nhs.uk or call 111 for advice.”

The norovirus symptoms of diarrhoea and sickness will usually pass within 48 hours and need a further 48 hours before returning to work or school.  Flu is more severe and symptoms will often last a week to 10 days.

“What is essential is to know when to seek help,” Dr White advises. “Be alert to the signs of sepsis. If symptoms aren’t resolving or are particularly severe, call 111 for advice and in an emergency always call 999.”

So far Cornwall’s hospitals haven’t seen the sorts of pressures of last winter and staff are eager to see this avoided.  The Christmas and New Year period has seen fewer people visit the emergency department, heeding messages to choose wisely and going to minor injury units or seeking advice from pharmacies or 111.

Louise Dickinson, director for Infection Prevention and Control at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, said, “It’s really important not to bring viral symptoms into hospital when visiting relatives or friends. Viruses thrive in any setting where lots of people are in close proximity, schools, offices and hospitals. You can really help us and protect vulnerable patients by staying away for at least 48 hours after symptoms have passed.”

Dr White added: “It’s still not too late to get a flu vaccination.

“With cases on the rise, if you’re in an at risk group and haven’t had your jab yet, make an appointment with your GP.”