Winter doesn’t just carry an increased risk of colds and flu. This time of year can also exacerbate certain chronic conditions, such as arthritis and asthma, or even trigger others, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Pharmacists shouldn’t just think about customers’ changing health needs, as their social care needs can alter too, requiring help accessing prescriptions in poor weather conditions and with heating bills in cold temperatures.
Here are just a few key websites and resources that pharmacy staff can recommend to pharmacy customers – or even contact themselves if they would like to learn more.
Public Health England’s Stay Well This Winter campaign aims to ease seasonal pressure on NHS services. There is a strong emphasis on pharmacy. For more information, visit https://campaignresources.phe.gov.uk/resources/campaigns/34-stay-well-this-winter-/overview
Health Through Warmth is a scheme run by npower. It offers help to people in England and Wales who have long-term illnesses and are finding it difficult to fully fund heating systems/repairs and insulation in their homes. People don’t have to be npower customers but do need to fill in forms to prove their eligibility. Referrals are also made by health and social care workers, welfare agencies and charities.For more information, visit www.npower.com/health_through_warmth/index.htm.
Arthritis Care can provide information for people with arthritis on keeping warm during the winter months. For more information, https://www.arthritiscare.org.uk/about-us/blogs/1314-keeping-warm-this-winter. Helpine: 0808 800 4050.
Asthma UK has a page on its website offering practical tips to reduce winter’s effect on asthma.For more information, www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/weather/#. Helpline: 0300 222 5800 (9am to 5pm Monday to Friday).
British Heart Foundation has winter health advice for people with heart problems. For more information, visit www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/living-with-a-heart-condition/weather-and-your-heart/cold-weather. Helpline: 0300 330 3311.
Scleroderma & Raynaud’s UK (SRUK) provides information and support for people with scleroderma and Raynaud’s. Raynaud’s affects one in six people in the UK and is often the first symptom of scleroderma, which is a rare chronic disease of the immune system. If people have Raynaud’s phenomenon, their fingers become cold, painful, numb and may change colour in response to temperature changes. For more information, visit www.sruk.co.uk. Helpline: 0300 311 2756.
Age UK can provide information and support to older people, including specific winter health advice in its Winter Wrapped Up document. For more information, visit www.ageuk.org.uk/health-wellbeing/keeping-your-body-healthy/winter-wrapped-up/preparing-for-winter/.
SADA is the UK’s only non-commercial support organisation for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The charity provides advice on SAD, including helpsheets on symptoms and treatments and a list of UK lightboxes that have been tested and approved for medical use in SAD. For more information, visit www.sada.org.uk/index_2.php.
Met Office Cold Weather Alert operates in England from 1 November to 31 March every year. It triggers an alert when severe cold weather is likely to significantly affect people’s health. It takes into account the environmental temperature as well as the risk of ice and snow.