Everything you need to know about flu and the flu vaccination for 2021-22.
The NHS is here to help when you need it, but you can Help us Help you by knowing when you can care for yourself and your family.
The winter months can be challenging for many Surrey residents, and add more pressure to NHS services during periods of extreme weather. Cold weather can make some health problems worse and even lead to serious complications, especially for those aged 65 and over, or if you have a long-term health condition. Even for those in full health, winter can bring with it coughs, colds and flu bugs.
Stay healthy and well this winter and be prepared using the advice below. Seek help when needed using the most appropriate local NHS services listed below, and stock your medicine cabinet with the essentials so you can treat common health conditions like sore throats, colds, coughs and grazed knees.
The latest information about the Coronavirus Vaccination Programme in Surrey Heartlands is available on this website.
There is also a range of very helpful resources to support you during winter on the Healthy Surrey website.
On this page you will find information on:
- Accessing NHS Services
- Essential Winter Vaccines
- Pharmacy advice
- NHS 111
- CYP Havens
- What you should keep in your medicine cabinet
- Checking in on the vulnerable
- Keeping your house warm
- Local support across Surrey
If you have a symptom that could be cancer (such as unexplained blood that doesn’t come from an obvious injury, an unexplained lump, weight loss which feels significant to you or an unexplained pain that doesn’t go away) a maternity concern, or a routine appointment, the NHS is here to help you and can see you safely.
- If you have a routine appointment, make sure you keep it, unless recommended otherwise by your doctor. If you are told to go to hospital for a routine appointment, then the NHS has measures in place to make sure that it safe for you to do so.
- No staff who have Covid-19 symptoms or come into contact with someone with symptoms are allowed to work in the hospital meaning the NHS can see you in a safe environment.
- If you are pregnant, it is crucial that you still attend your antenatal appointments and continue to seek advice from your midwife or maternity team to ensure you have a safe and healthy pregnancy. If you are worried about your health or the health of your unborn baby, please do not hesitate to contact your midwife or maternity team.
- Women of a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background may be at higher risk of complications of coronavirus. Maternity services have been asked to take extra precautions to keep women at greatest risk safe and everyone should seek advice without delay if they are concerned about their or their baby’s health.
- Midwives have worked hard to make sure you still have a personal and safe maternity experience during this time, but some services will need to adapt. This could mean having telephone or video consultations or attending your antenatal appointments in a different setting. Your midwife will have more details about what is happening in your area.
- If you’ve had unexplained blood that doesn’t come from an obvious injury (such as blood in your poo or pee), an unexplained lump, weight loss which feels significant to you or an unexplained pain that lasts three weeks or more, it could be a sign of cancer. It’s probably nothing serious, but finding cancer early makes it more treatable, so just speak to your GP.
Vaccinations are an important way to help keep you and your family well during the winter.
- Visit our Winter Vaccinations page to find out everything you need to know about flu and the flu vaccine.
- Visit our Coronavirus Vaccination page to find out everything you need to know about the Covid-19 vaccination programme in Surrey Heartlands.
Help us help you by speaking with your local pharmacy team about minor health concerns before they get worse. They can help with clinical advice for all sorts of illnesses there and then, and if your symptoms suggest it's something more serious, they have the right training to ensure you get the help you need. It may also save you lots of time by receiving advice and treatment on the spot, without the need to go to your GP or A&E.
Get help early, if you are feeling unwell, don't wait, go to your nearest pharmacy.
Our Pharmacies page has more information about pharmacies and why and when you should visit your local pharmacy.
Think you need medical help right now?
Go straight to 111 which is available by calling 111 for free or online via www.111.nhs.uk
NHS 111 online is conveniently accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
NHS 111 is there for when you need medical help fast but it is not a life threatening emergency.
How NHS 111 works
You will be asked questions about your symptoms on the website or by speaking to a trained adviser on the phone. Depending on the situation, you will then:
- Find out what local services can help you
- Be connected to a nurse, emergency dentist, pharmacist or GP
- Get a face to face appointment if you need one
- Be told how to get any medicine you may need
- Get self-care advice
Be booked a timed slot in walk-in centres and emergency departments if that's where you need to be
In cases of emergencies please dial 999 - this is when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.
The virtual CYP Havens offer a safe way for 10-18 year olds to talk about their worries & mental health in a confidential, friendly & supportive environment.
For more information about the CYP Havens, please visit the Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust website.
You can call them on 01483 519 436 Mondays to Fridays 4pm-8.30pm and on Saturdays & Sundays 12pm-6pm.
Most common winter ailments, such as a cold, sore throat, cough, sinusitis or earache, can't be treated with antibiotics.
The best thing to do is:
- drink plenty of fluids
- have at least one hot meal a day to keep your energy levels up
- talk to your pharmacist for advice on getting any pain relief you need such as paracetamol or ibuprofen
Keep a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home
If you have any queries, your local pharmacist can advise you further on which medicines you should have in your cabinet to help get you and your family through the winter season.
Make sure you have repeat prescriptions
If you or someone your care for requires medicines regularly, make sure you order and collect repeat prescriptions in good time to ensure you or your family have enough medicine to last over the festive period and bank holidays.
Check on older neighbours and relatives, and those with heart or breathing (respiratory) problems, to make sure they:
- are safe and well
- are warm enough, especially at night
- have stocks of food and medicines so they do not need to go out during very cold weather
If you're worried about a relative or elderly neighbour, contact your local council or call the Age UK helpline on 0800 678 1602 (8am to 7pm every day).
If you're concerned that the person may be suffering from hypothermia, contact NHS 111.
Follow these tips to keep you and your family warm and well at home.
- If you're not very mobile, are 65 or over, or have a health condition, such as heart or lung disease, heat your home to at least 18C.
- Keep your bedroom at 18C all night if you can – and keep bedroom window closed.
- If you're under 65, healthy and active, you can safely have your home cooler than 18C, as long as you're comfortable.
- Use a hot water bottle or electric blanket to keep warm in bed – but do not use both at the same time.
- Have at least 1 hot meal a day – eating regularly helps keep you warm have hot drinks regularly to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), babies should sleep in rooms heated to between 16C and 20C.
- Draw curtains at dusk and keep doors closed to block out draughts.
- Get your heating system checked regularly by a qualified professional.
Action Surrey provide information and advice on how to keep a home warm and any grants that may be available for replacement boilers and insulation.
Age UK Surrey provide information to help people stay safe, warm and well in the winter. This includes money saving tips and further advice on benefits and grants, advocacy and counselling.
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Many of us look forward to warmer weather in the summer months, but when it’s hot for longer periods – or we face more extreme temperatures, it can pose a risk to our health. Read our top tips for keeping healthy and well this summer.
Dehydration is one of the main health risks during hot weather. Dehydration means your body loses more fluids than you take in. If it’s not treated, it can get worse and become a serious problem.
Symptoms of dehydration in adults and children include:
- feeling thirsty
- dark yellow and strong-smelling pee
- feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- feeling tired
- a dry mouth, lips and eyes
- peeing little, and fewer than 4 times a day
To reduce the risk of dehydration:
- Drink fluids when you feel any dehydration symptoms.
- If you find it hard to drink because you feel sick or have been sick, start with small sips and then gradually drink more.
- You can use a spoon to make it easier for your child to swallow the fluids.
- You should drink enough during the day so your pee is a pale clear colour.
- Drink when there's a higher risk of dehydrating - for example, if you're vomiting, sweating or you have diarrhoea
If you're being sick or have diarrhoea and are losing too much fluid, you need to put back the sugar, salts and minerals that your body has lost. Your pharmacist can recommend oral rehydration sachets. These are powders that you mix with water and then drink. Ask your pharmacist which ones are right for you or your child.
Stay Protected from the Sun
Spend time in the shade when the sun is strongest. In the UK, this is between 11am and 3pm from March to October.
Make sure you:
- spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm
- never burn
- cover up with suitable clothing and sunglasses
- take extra care with children
- use at least factor 30 sunscreen
Bugs and Bites
Most insect bites and stings are not serious and will get better within a few hours or days, but occasionally they can become infected, cause a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Bugs that bite or sting include wasps, hornets, bees, horseflies, ticks, mosquitoes, fleas, bedbugs, spiders and midges.
To treat an insect bite or sting:
- remove the sting or tick if it's still in the skin
- wash the affected area with soap and water
- apply a cold compress (such as a flannel or cloth cooled with cold water) or an ice pack to any swelling for at least 10 minutes
- raise or elevate the affected area if possible, as this can help reduce swelling
- avoid scratching the area, to reduce the risk of infection
- avoid traditional home remedies, such as vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, as they're unlikely to help
Ask your pharmacist about medicines that can help, such as painkillers, creams for itching and antihistamines. If your symptoms do not start to improve within a few days or are getting worse, call NHS 111 who can advise what to do and refer you to the most relevant service.
The main risks posed by a heatwave are:
- not having enough water (dehydration)
- overheating, which can make symptoms worse for people who already have problems with their heart or breathing
- heat exhaustion and heatstroke
Who's most at risk?
A heatwave can affect anyone, but the most vulnerable people are:
- older people, especially those over 75
- babies and young children
- people with a serious long-term condition, especially heart or breathing problems
- people with mobility problems – for example, people with Parkinson's disease or who have had a stroke
- people with serious mental health problems
- people on certain medicines, including those that affect sweating and temperature control
- people who are physically active – for example, labourers or those doing sports
Tips for coping in hot weather:
- Keep windows that are exposed to the sun closed during the day, and open windows at night when the temperature has dropped.
- Avoid the heat: stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm.
- Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothes.
- Keep rooms cool by using shades or reflective material outside the windows. If this is not possible, use light-coloured curtains and keep them closed (metallic blinds and dark curtains can make the room hotter).
- If possible, move into a cooler room, especially for sleeping.
- Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water.
- Drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol. Water, lower-fat milks and tea and coffee are good options.
- If you have to go out in the heat, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat and light scarf.
- Check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who may be less able to look after themselves.
The NHS is still here for you
Make sure you receive the right care when and where you need it.
- Seek the urgent advice you need
- Get the right treatment as soon as possible
- Protect you and your family from future illness
- Access the right healthcare in a safe way
Don’t put off seeking urgent treatment or advice from your Doctor, Midwife or other care expert when you are feeling unwell or worried about a new or existing condition – your health is important to us and there are a range of services available.
Every care setting including hospitals and GP practices have robust measures in place to keep you and your family safe during face to face appointments. Please attend these appointments if you have been advised to do so.
For any urgent concerns on new symptoms, contact your GP who can assess you over the phone and arrange an appointment if necessary. Seeking urgent advice on chest pain or signs of a stroke is absolutely vital.
For ongoing cancer treatment, when advised to do so, please attend your regular appointments and screenings to ensure you receive the right care as soon as possible.
New and expectant mums
For new and expectant mothers, your regular antenatal appointments are really important to monitor the health of you and your baby. Your local midwifery team will be in touch to advise you if your appointment will be carried out over the phone or face to face, and the team will always ensure there are safe measures in place to meet social distancing guidelines.
Visit your local hospital’s maternity page for up to date guidance on maternity services:
- Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust
- Epsom & St Helier University Hospitals Trust
- Ashford & St Peter’s Hospitals Foundation Trust
- Surrey & Sussex Healthcare Trust
For women under the care of Royal Surrey Hospital, Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals and Epsom and St Helier Hospitals, the Surrey Heartlands Pregnancy Advice Line provides pregnant women access to advice and support from a midwife 24 hours day, 7 days a week. Call 0300 123 5473 with any concerns you may have.
Regular immunisations such as the MMR vaccination are vital in protecting you and your family against preventable, potentially deadly diseases and should not be delayed. Your GP practice can advise on re-scheduling your appointment, and attending in a safe way. Visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations for further advice on the different routine vaccinations available.
The Covid-19 pandemic can cause enormous anxiety for many people, even if you haven’t previously suffered. It’s really important that you seek support as soon as possible – there are a number of Surrey services which can offer emotional wellbeing and mental health support. Visit Healthy Surrey for more information.
If you already suffer from anxiety, stress or are receiving ongoing support for your mental health, your key workers and support systems are still here for you. Please continue to seek help in the same way you did before any Covid-19 measures were put in place - the way your support is delivered may be slightly different but the level of support remains unchanged.
Those who are unable to access online services, can continue to seek emotional wellbeing support through a free, 24 hour, 7 day a week confidential helpline on 0808 802 5000 (in high demand periods, an answerphone service may be in place) or by SMS Text 07537 432411 (staffed Monday to Friday 9am-2pm).
For people experiencing a mental health crisis, please telephone 0800 915 4644 (24 hours, 7 days a week). If you have speech or hearing difficulties, you can contact the helpline through SMS 07717 989024, Next Generation text service. Dial 18001 0800 915 4644 from your text phone or smart app.
For non-urgent medical advice, please visit 111 online.
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Keep Antibiotics Working
Public Health England warns of the risks of taking antibiotics when you don’t need to as it puts you and your family at risk of more severe or longer illness.
To help keep antibiotics working you are urged to always take your doctor or nurse’s advice on their use.
It is estimated that at least 5,000 deaths are caused every year in England because antibiotics no longer work for some infections. This figure is set to rise, with experts predicting that in just over 30 years, antibiotic resistance will kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined.
Antibiotics help ward off infections during chemotherapy, caesarean sections and other surgery. They also treat serious bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis, but they are being used for everyday viral infections, such as colds or flu, where they are not effective. Taking antibiotics encourage bacteria that live inside you to adapt and become resistant. That means that antibiotics may not work when you really need them and you are more likely to get an antibiotic resistant infection.
This risk is even greater for children who have taken antibiotics. Public Health England are calling for the public to play their part in tackling the antibiotic resistance epidemic by trusting their doctor or nurse’s advice as to when they need antibiotics and if they are prescribed, taking antibiotics as directed and never saving them for later use or sharing with others.
For further information on antibiotic resistance search for NHS antibiotics.