Keeping well this winter

Published: Friday, 5 January 2024

As we are set to face the challenges that winter brings, Havering Council has put together some tips for keeping well this winter.

Our top tips tell you how you cannot only keep well and warm, but where you can also get support and more information if you need it.

Councillor Ray Morgon, Leader of Havering Council, said:

“We’ve had a long warm spell, but with winter creeping in, it also presents the borough and our residents with many challenges – keeping warm when the cost of living is high, keeping well with bugs and flu around and keeping connected at a time we traditionally spend more time indoors.

“No one needs to be lonely or feeling disconnected because of a lack of community or illness. There is plenty of support in our community and I want everyone who needs it to access it as easily and as quickly as possible.

“We all have a part to play and I’m hoping that particularly during this season everyone will keep an eye on their family and neighbours, give a helping hand and sign posting them to help and support.” 

Covid 19

Covid 19 vaccination is an important part of protecting yourself if you are at increased risk from severe Covid 19.  If you are eligible for a seasonal vaccine, book your appointment online 

Who is eligible for a seasonal Covid 19 vaccine?

You or your child may be offered a seasonal Covid 19 vaccine if you are:

  •     aged 65 years old or over (you need to be 65 years old by 31 March 2024)
  •     aged 6 months to 64 years old and are at increased risk
  •     living in a care home for older adults
  •     a frontline health or social care worker
  •     aged 16 to 64 years old and are a carer
  •     aged 12 to 64 years old and live with someone with a weakened immune system

Flu vaccination

The flu vaccine is recommended for people at higher risk of getting seriously ill from flu.

It's offered on the NHS every year in autumn or early winter, but you can get it later.

You can get the free NHS flu vaccine if you:

  •     are aged 65 or over (including if you will be 65 by 31 March 2024)
  •     have certain long-term health conditions
  •     are pregnant
  •     live in a care home
  •     are the main carer for an older or disabled person, or receive a carer's allowance
  •     live with someone who has a weakened immune system

For information on how to get a flu vaccination 

The NHS has advice on how to manage flu symptoms.

Frontline health and social care workers can also get a flu vaccine through their employer.

Coughs and cold

Coughs and cold are very common during winter. They can often be treated without seeing a GP

How self-treat a cold or cough

  • Rest and try to get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated with water or diluted juice, and gargle saltwater for a sore throat (not suitable for children).
  • If you feel unwell, and particularly if you have a high temperature try to stay at home and avoid contact with others if you can.
  • Painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen ease aches, while decongestants help with a blocked nose.
  • Decongestants aren't for kids under 6 and should only be used for a maximum of 5 days by children aged 6 to 12.
  • Be cautious with cough and cold medications; they might contain similar ingredients to painkillers, posing overdose risks. Some aren't suitable for children, babies, or pregnant women (please read the directions on the pack).
  • Consult a pharmacist for advice on suitable medicines for colds and coughs.
  • Supplements like vitamin C, echinacea, or garlic have limited evidence in preventing or speeding up recovery from colds.

Norovirus

Norovirus, also called the "winter vomiting bug", is a stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea. It can be very unpleasant, but usually goes away in about two days.

Washing hands frequently with soap and water is the best way to stop norovirus from spreading. Remember – hand gels do not kill norovirus. 

Get advice from 111 if you’re worried about a baby under 12 months, if your child stops feeding, or if you or your child have diarrhoea for more than seven days or vomiting for more than two days. 

Remember to stay off school or work until you have not been sick or had diarrhoea for at least two days.  It is very important to avoid visiting hospitals or care homes during this time.

The NHS has information on managing norovirus symptoms and when to seek further advice.

Scarlet fever

Scarlet fever is a contagious infection that mostly affects young children. It's easily treated with antibiotics.

Scarlet fever is usually a mild illness, but it is highly infectious. Look out for symptoms in your child which include a sore throat, a headache, and fever, along with a characteristic pinkish or red body rash.

Further information about scarlet fever is available from the NHS.

Contact your GP or NHS 111 if you suspect your child has scarlet fever because early treatment can reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia.  

Be safe, healthy and happy

There are lots of steps you can take to help keep you and your family safe and well during the winter.

  •  Staying well this winter - if you feel unwell visit 111 online or dial 111 for help. In the case of an emergency dial 999
  •  You can enter your postcode into the NHS website to find a GP. Make sure you get your prescription medicines before Christmas
  •  Use a tissue to trap the germs when you cough or sneeze and bin the used tissue quickly
  •  Wash your hands with warm water and soap regularly to reduce the risk of picking up, or spreading infections, particularly before you eat, when arriving home or after blowing your nose
  •  If hand wash facilities are not available, then use hand sanitizer for more protection from respiratory viruses, but remember than hand sanitizer will not protect against norovirus
  •  For information on loneliness, visit the Campaign to End Loneliness or Age UK 
  •  Pneumonia can affect people of any age, but it’s more common and can be more serious, in groups such as the very young or older people.  Check out the NHS website for more information on what to look out for
  •  Antibiotics do not work on viral infections like coughs, colds and flu. Don’t ask for antibiotics if you don’t need them, to ensure they work more effectively when you do need them. 
  •  We have local mental health and wellbeing support in the borough 
  •  In the first instance, pharmacists are experts in medicines who can help you with a range of minor health concerns such as coughs, colds and tummy troubles. They will also tell you if you need to see a GP or other healthcare professional

Warm Spaces

The Council is working alongside voluntary, community and local organisations and businesses to set up a network of Warm Spaces across the borough this winter

These include libraries, leisure centres, community centres, community hubs and other places. They will offer residents a warm welcome and a comfortable space to share with others.

Some venues will also offer hot drinks, activities, and other services such as free Wi-Fi. Warm Spaces will be heated, safe and friendly places, where residents can comfortably spend time reading, studying or chatting with others.

Visit Warm Spaces

Planning for and responding to cold weather

Every year as temperatures drop over the winter period, cold weather affects health and wellbeing. Cold weather and hazards such as snow and ice increase the likelihood of falls and injuries.

Cold weather can also cause your heart to work harder than usual and increases blood pressure. The chance of catching flu also increases during winter months and can be very serious for older people and people who have certain health conditions. Keeping warm over the winter months can help to prevent more serious problems such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression. 

Here are tips to stay warm and look after yourself during cold weather.

  • Try to heat rooms you spend a lot of time in, such as the living room or bedroom, to at least 18°C
  • Making sure you have sufficient food and medicine in case you are unable to go out when it’s cold and icy
  • Take simple measures to reduce draughts in your home. You can fit draft excluders around doors cheaply. Depending on what you can afford, options could include insulation of water pipers to prevent them from freezing; loft insulation; internal, cavity and external wall insulation; and double (or triple) window glazing.
  • Keep your windows closed at night but open your window for short periods during the day to allow ventilation and to prevent mould.
  • Do not cover the vents and do not cook with windows closed.
  • Wear several layers of thinner clothing; this can keep you warmer than one thicker layer.
  • Exercising – try not to sit still for more than an hour or so, but if you find it difficult to move about, stretching your arms and legs can also keep you warm. If you have visitors, it can help stop the spread of germs to ventilate the room for a few minutes before and after they arrive; you might be more comfortable leaving the window open during their visit, if it’s not too cold
  • Wearing good-fitting slippers with a good grip indoors and shoes with a good grip outside to prevent slips, trips and falls
  • Eat well and stay hydrated. It can sometimes be difficult to keep up the motivation to prepare meals in winter, but our diet, including how much we eat, is an important part of staying healthy and well.
  • Make sure your household appliances are safe and working well. Regular servicing of your appliances can keep them working efficiently and for longer, saving you money. 
  • Look after others by checking on older neighbours or relatives, especially those living alone or who have serious illnesses to make sure they are safe, warm and well. 
  • Get financial support. There are grants, benefits and sources of advice to make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating or help with bills. It’s worthwhile claiming all the benefits you are entitled to before winter sets in.

The Cold Weather Plan for England includes advice and guidance on keeping well and staying warm during cold and harsh weather.

For more tips on staying well this winter, visit our winter webpage.

You can help keep children well by:

  •  ensuring their routine vaccinations are up to date and taking up the offer of additional vaccinations, including the seasonal flu vaccine 
  •  teaching them how to wash their hands and cover their mouths and nose when they cough and sneeze 
  •  finding out more about the common infections children can get 
  •  support your child’s school or nursery by keeping them at home when they are unwell

Cost of Living

As the cost of living continues to rise across the country, Havering Council recognises that our residents are going to be feeling the pinch this winter.

We have created a webpage for all of the support that may be out there for you this winter and beyond, all in one handy place.

There you can find links to the Havering Helps assistance scheme, council tax support, debt management services, energy grants, food banks and community hubs, as well as online benefits calculators so you can be sure you’re receiving all the support you are entitled to. 

Go to our cost of living page 

Community Support

The Havering Community Hub site offers lots of interactive features where communities can connect in a number of different ways.

It contains information on how to access financial help, local charities, food banks and events to keep active.

Look out for neighbours, particularly those who could become isolated over Christmas.

Information is available if you are worried about someone who is - or could become homeless.

Gritting

The Council’s winter roads maintenance service have vehicles ready for snow or ice should it arrive and a snow plough ready to clear roads.

Residents are advised to take extra care, and in heavy snow only travel if you have to.

We’ve got:

  • five gritting lorries on stand-by 
  • 2,000 tonnes of salt in our depot – enough to grit up to over 380 miles of roads and sufficient for almost three weeks of continuous snowfall 
  • teams on-call 24/7 including weekends 

When Havering is hit with severe cold weather, as many primary roads as possible will be gritted, with priority given to bus routes and roads linking motorways and hospitals.

Once priority roads are clear, the team will look at side roads (secondary routes) to help support the scheduled rubbish collections can still take place and enable emergency services to get about.

Go to our gritting page

More support

School closures

In severe weather local schools may be affected.

Parents are advised to check individual schools' websites, social media and Time FM for the latest updates.