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Health Advice

Colds and Flu are caused by viruses, so they can’t be treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics in this situation may do more harm than good.

Colds

Symptoms of a cold include sore throat, sneezing, blocked or runny nose, cough and feeling unwell.  While symptomatic with a cold you should drink plenty of liquids, get lots of rest at home and eat healthily.  Most adults will start to feel better after 3 or 4 days and be fully recovered by 7 days, although young children may take a little longer to fully recover.

Flu

Influenza or Flu is a virus that comes on suddenly and makes you feel quite unwell. Symptoms of Flu include sore throat, fever and muscle aches which develop quickly, along with feeling very unwell.  You should start to feel much better after 5 to 8 days although a cough and general tiredness may last for 2 to 3 weeks.

Usually you do not need to see the doctor, as most Flu can be treated at home by drinking plenty of liquids, getting lots of rest and eating healthily. Contact your GP by telephone if you don’t improve or if you start to improve and then get worse.

People with Flu are usually infectious a day before symptoms start and remain infectious for 5 or 6 days.  Stay at home and try to avoid all unnecessary contact with others during this time to avoid spreading the illness to them.

Discourage any visitors. You can avoid spreading the Flu germs by coughing and sneezing into a tissue, binning the tissue immediately and washing your hands with soap and water afterwards. Alcohol based hand gels are also effective. If you don’t have a tissue you can cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow.

 Those at risk of complications of Flu include:

  •  Those 65 years and older
  • Children under 2 years of age
  • Pregnancy including up to 2 weeks after delivery
  • Residents of nursing homes and other residential care facilities
  • Those with chronic illness, immunosuppresion, morbid obesity, cerebral palsy and intellectual disability or Down Syndrome

If you are in one of these at risk categories you should contact your doctor by telephone, as you may need special anti-viral medicines.  These work best if started within 48 hours of onset of Flu symptoms.

Flu vaccination

Flu can be prevented by vaccination. Flu vaccine is a safe, effective way to help prevent Flu infection, avoiding hospitalisation, reducing Flu related deaths and illnesses. Flu vaccination is strongly recommended for:

  • Persons aged 65 years and older
  • Those aged 6 months and older with a long term medical condition such as Diabetes, Heart, Kidney, Liver, Lung or Neurological Disease
  • People whose immune system is impaired due to disease or treatment
  • Persons with body mass index (BMI) over 40 (obese)
  • Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long stay institutions
  • People with regular close contact with poultry, water fowl or pigs
  • Health care workers
  • Carers

If you are 65 or over, or have a long term medical condition you should also ask your doctor for the Pneumococcal vaccine which helps prevent Pneumonia.

The HSE provides the Flu and Pneumococcal vaccines free of charge for all those in the at risk groups. Those 18 years and older in the at risk groups may attend either their GP or Pharmacist for vaccination and those under 18 years should attend their GP. The vaccine and consultation is free for those with a medical card or GP visit card. Those without a medical card or GP visit card will be charged a consultation fee.

Keeping Well and Warm

Everyone, especially older or more vulnerable people, should remember to take extra care during a cold spell. Elderly people should not venture outdoors in severe weather if possible. The public are asked to make a special effort to keep in contact with their neighbours and relatives, particularly those living alone.

Remember:-

  • Keep warm, eat well and avoid unnecessary travel
  • Call on elderly relatives and neighbours and ensure they have sufficient supplies of food and of any prescription drugs they may need
  • Ensure that older people have sufficient fuel supplies to maintain adequate heating in their homes

Medical Appointments

If travel services or roads are disrupted due to bad weather, you may need to change planned visits to hospital or other health centres for appointments or even a planned operation. If severe disruption occurs, some health services may have to change their operating times. If you have a question about any planned appointments, please phone the hospital or facility that you are due to attend to check on any changes to services.

Health Advice - Drinking Water

If your water supply is disrupted due to severe weather, you will find health advice on drinking water supplies on the website www.hse.ie

Preventing Falls and Trips

Emergency Departments around the country can be busy in severe weather, dealing with sprains and fractures as a result of slips and falls on icy roads and footpaths. While both young and old present to Emergency Departments as a result of falls on ice, as we get older a fall can result in broken bones, a loss of confidence, loss of mobility and fear of leaving the home. Many falls can be prevented and by making small changes we can reduce the chances of falling.

Accidents do happen but many slips, trips and falls are preventable. A leaflet, ‘Keep Safe This Winter – Preventing Falls and Trips’, is available on the website www.hse.ie with lots of helpful tips on how to be safe in your home and outdoors this winter. You can also contact your Local Health Office for more advice.

Personal Safety – Staying Safe

  • In icy weather, wear well-fitted shoes with non-slip soles if you have to go out but try to limit walking during the cold weather
  • Have your vision checked. Your eyesight changes as you get older; poor vision can increase your chances of falling
  • As you get older you may need to change the dose of your medicines – check with your doctor. Some medicines or combinations of medicines may make you feel faint or light-headed which could lead to a fall
  • Consider wearing a personal alarm so that family or neighbours are alerted if you fall
  • Eat regular hot meals and drink plenty of fluids, this will keep you warm and will give you energy to keep active
  • If you have a fall, even a minor one, make sure you visit your doctor for a check up

Fall prevention in your home

  • Leave a low energy light on at night time, preferably one with a high light output
  • Use a non-slip shower or bath mat
  • Make sure wires or cords from lamps, telephones etc. do not trail where you walk
  • Arrange furniture so that you can easily move around all your rooms
  • Keep the floors clear from papers and books etc. that could cause you to trip
  • Remove rugs or use non-slip tape or backing so rugs will not slip Consider installing hand rails on both sides of the stairs

Keep well this winter – for more information visit www.hse.ie

Personal Safety – Staying Safe

  • In icy weather, wear well-fitted shoes with non-slip soles if you have to go out but try to limit walking during the cold weather
  • Have your vision checked. Your eyesight changes as you get older; poor vision can increase your chances of falling
  • As you get older you may need to change the dose of your medicines – check with your doctor. Some medicines or combinations of medicines may make you feel faint or light-headed which could lead to a fall
  • Consider wearing a personal alarm so that family or neighbours are alerted if you fall
  • Eat regular hot meals and drink plenty of fluids, this will keep you warm and will give you energy to keep active
  • If you have a fall, even a minor one, make sure you visit your doctor for a check up