December’s blog – Keeping well this winter

Fin McCaulThe cold weather has definitely set in and we hear snow may be on the way. I’m sure everyone will be wrapping up warm, but the cold weather can be a particular issue if you have asthma as it can trigger asthma symptoms. Here are some useful tips from Asthma UK to keep asthma at bay as the temperatures plummet:

  • Keep taking your regular preventer medicines as prescribed by your GP.
  • If you know that cold air triggers your asthma, take one or two puffs of your reliever inhaler before going outside.
  • Keep your blue reliever inhaler with you at all times.
  • Wrap up well and wear a scarf over your nose and mouth – this will help to warm up the air before you breathe it in.
  • Take extra care when exercising in cold weather. Warm up for 10 to 15 minutes and take one or two puffs of your reliever inhaler before you start.

As a pharmacist and the CCG’s lead for long term conditions, I have a particular interest in ensuring patients living with a long term condition such as asthma or diabetes, have the right tools and support to manage their symptoms on a day to day basis and experience a good quality of life.

In relation to asthma, we know that most people find it difficult to use their inhalers to best effect. We realised that in order for patients to get the best results out of their inhalers, we needed to ensure healthcare staff knew the right techniques so that they could pass on the knowledge to their patients.

So, earlier in the year we put on some ‘inhaler technique’ training for all Bury healthcare professionals, so that when they come into contact with a patient who uses inhalers, they would be able to do a quick check that the patient was getting the maximum benefit from their medicine, helping them to stay in control of their condition and avoiding unplanned trips to hospital. Staff were really keen to take part in the training, we trained over 200 in total ranging from GPs to community nurses and pharmacists. Its early days, but we are already seeing a reduction in people needing a stay in hospital due to respiratory conditions, so this project was definitely a win win for staff and for patients. If you would like to double check you are using your inhalers to best effect, speak to your local pharmacist for advice, or your GP or nurse the next time you are at the practice.

Keeping warm over the winter months can help prevent colds, flu or more serious health conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression. Here are some thoughts from me on keeping warm and well throughout the winter:

If you are eligible for the free flu jab, get protected as soon as you can; one of the best ways of keeping yourself well during winter is to stay warm, so keeping your home at the right temperature, eating regularly to help boost energy levels and wrapping up warm inside and out with layers of light clothing will help you to stay warm. Finally, if you do find yourself catching a winter bug, self-care is the best choice to treat things like coughs, colds and sore throats at home. Many minor ailments can be treated with over-the-counter remedies from your local pharmacy, so stock up with a few basic essentials before the winter really takes hold.

Thanks for reading this month, wishing you a happy and healthy festive period. Fin McCaul.

Fin McCaul, Pharmacist and CCG Lead for Long Term Conditions

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