Winter is coming
Winter is coming. The clocks have gone back, the mornings are frosty and those of us working in the NHS are looking at how we can manage to keep everyone safe and well through what many are saying will be the toughest winter we have faced.
This may sound concerning, and is certainly a difficult situation for staff who are already exhausted following 20 months of the pandemic, but there are things that everyone can do to help us.
Get your Covid-19 and flu vaccinations
The Covid-19 vaccines reduce the risk of getting the virus, spreading it to others and of becoming seriously ill or dying if you do contract Covid-19. Every single infection that can be prevented, every person who does not need to come to hospital, helps us to care for the people of Torbay and South Devon and save lives.
As a respiratory specialist I am very much aware that flu can also cause life-threatening infections, and so I would say that getting your flu and Covid-19 vaccinations as soon as possible and having boosters when they are offered is something practical you can do to protect yourself and help us do our work. Book your Covid-19 vaccination at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/
Help stop the spread of Covid-19
With Covid-19 rates high across the country, the pandemic is anything but over. Everyone can help to limit the spread of the virus by wearing masks in crowded places, minimising close contact and increasing ventilation or meeting outdoors whenever possible.
It is also vitally important to isolate and have a PCR test if you develop any symptoms that could be Covid-19. The symptoms can seem just like a standard cold, particularly in those who have been vaccinated, so it is very important to have the test and isolate to avoid infecting others. PCRs are quick and easy to do and can be arranged at: https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test
Keep exercising and stop smoking
There are lots of things that you can do to improve your lung health, such as regular exercise and stopping smoking. If you smoke, you are seven times more likely to be admitted to hospital and live with poor health.
We know that people who have support are far more likely to be successful in their attempt to stop smoking, and many people take more than one attempt before they finally quit for good. The most important thing is to keep trying and we have lots of support available to help you stop. Find out more at https://www.torbayandsouthdevon.nhs.uk/services/healthy-lifestyles/stop-smoking/
Those who live with and manage long-term lung conditions know that winter is often a time where their condition can get worse, so it is important to ensure you keep taking your regular medications that keep you well, like inhalers, and also have supplies of any medications that you might need in case of a flare up of your condition. This can help to keep you well and avoid being admitted to hospital.
Many conditions can be treated through self-care at home, especially if you look up your symptoms using the NHS App, the NHS website or 111 online.
If you have an urgent but non-life-threatening health problem, please contact NHS 111. You will be directed to the right service, whether that is self-care, a pharmacy, a GP, Newton Abbot Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) or our Emergency Department (Accident & Emergency).
If you need emergency care because you have a life-threatening condition or are acutely unwell, please choose our Emergency Department at Torbay Hospital.
Even with vaccines and preventative measures, many people will become ill with respiratory conditions this winter and will need to be cared for in hospital, and we are here to help. I know that coming to hospital is often very difficult both for patients and their loved ones, and we will do everything to try to make it as stress-free as possible.
You can also make a huge difference to us by being kind to those caring for you. You never know how tough a time your nurse, doctor or the cleaner on the ward might be having, and a kind word (or the absence of a cross one) can make all the difference to them.
Louise Anning has been a Respiratory and General Internal Medicine Consultant at Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust since 2019. She worked at the Nightingale Hospital Exeter last winter caring for patients with Covid-19 and is leading research trialling Covid-19 vaccines and treatments in Torbay.
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