O’Neill urges public to stay well in cold winter weather

Date published: 12 January 2017

Health Minister Michelle O’Neill urged the public to stay well by being prepared for the cold winter weather.

Health Minister Michelle O'Neill
Health Minister Michelle O'Neill

The Minister said: “It is important that we all stay well and safe in winter, particularly as the temperatures are set to drop this week. Cold weather can affect everyone’s health.  With a little preparation and by following some simple suggestions, we can help ourselves and those around us to stay healthy, safe and well this winter.

“Those of us who are able should also take some time to check in with the vulnerable in our community. Older people and those with long term illnesses are particularly susceptible to the cold.  If you have an elderly or vulnerable friend or neighbour, look out for them during the winter months to make sure they are safe, warm and well.”

The Minister encouraged the public to seek help from the range of services, particularly at this time when Emergency Departments remain busy.  Michelle O’Neill said:  “The public can help alleviate demands on emergency departments by only attending if their condition is urgent.  It is important people use the full range of care options including local pharmacies, GP and Minor Injury Units for non-urgent conditions.”

Michelle O’Neill added:  “I want to pay tribute to all the staff of the health and social care system and in particular those staff who have had to face increased demands on Emergency Departments in all of our hospitals across the north, over the last number of weeks.”

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride said that people should take steps to look after their health this winter: “One simple step you can still take to keep well this winter is to get the flu vaccination. For those who are ‘at risk’, flu can be a very serious, even life-threatening illness, which could result in hospital admission. Getting vaccinated against flu helps protect you and others around you. I encourage those in ‘at risk’ groups to avail of the free flu vaccination.”

“With the Met Office warnings for very cold and snowy weather across the north from Thursday, I would advise everyone, particularly older people, to beware of slipping or falling when out and about, even on simple tasks like bringing out the bin, as this increases the likelihood of fractures.

“Also, keeping warm over the winter months can help prevent colds, flu or more serious health conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression. Being prepared can make a huge difference if extreme weather hits.”

Dr McBride concluded: “There are a range of services that can help you stay well this winter, including local pharmacists who are a great source of help and advice if you are feeling unwell, particularly for coughs and colds.”

Some simple, practical steps can be taken to stay well throughout the winter months:

  • wear warm clothes - layers are best; if outside in icy conditions, wear boots or shoes with suitable grips
  • keep sufficient stocks of food and medicines
  • check the weather forecast regularly
  • take care outdoors, especially if  roads and pavements are icy
  • eat a balanced diet, including at least one hot meal a day
  • heat all rooms used during the day - living room to around 18-21°C (65-70°F) and the rest of your house to at least 16°C (61°F)
  • service boilers and appliances annually by a registered engineer to protect from the dangers of carbon monoxide
  • maintain contact with trusted callers, friends and relatives should you need assistance; keep your mobile phone charged

For further information on how to help yourself stay well this winter visit nidrect.

Notes to editors: 

For media enquiries please contact the Department of Health Press Office on 028 9052 0575 or email pressoffice@health-ni.gov.uk. For out of hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt

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