As the North of England looks set to experience some of the coldest temperatures of winter so far NHS England North and the British Lung Foundation are asking those with respiratory conditions to look after themselves this winter and ensure they get their flu jab. The Met Office is expecting temperatures to hit below zero in parts of the North of England over the next week.
The message coincides with World COPD Day 2018, which aims to raise awareness about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – a condition that causes thousands of additional admissions to hospital each winter.
COPD is a respiratory condition that makes it difficult to empty air out of the lungs because your airways have been narrowed. It’s usually associated with long-term exposure to harmful substances such as cigarette smoke, or coal dust – often a legacy of industry in parts of the North of England.
Every winter, GPs and hospitals see an increase in visits from people with respiratory conditions. In the North of England, admissions to hospital for respiratory related illness rose by 110% between summer and winter in 2017/18.
In 2017/18, there were 80% more respiratory admissions in December to February than in the warmer months of March to May. January is typically the busiest month for hospital admissions of this nature and this year’s figures show there was a 17% increase from the same month in 2017 across the North of England.
Dr Mike Prentice, Medical Director for NHS England North, said: “When the temperature drops to below 8C, many of us, especially those with long term health conditions are at increased risk of falling seriously ill. Therefore, it’s important to heat your home to at least 18C to stay well this winter.
If you start to feel unwell, at the first signs of winter respiratory illness, even if it’s just a cough or cold, get advice from your pharmacist, before it gets more serious.”
Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said:
“Prevention is vital in protecting the most vulnerable in our society: those with an existing lung condition, children, pregnant women and the elderly, to ensure they don’t get flu. It’s so important that those who are at greatest risk, and those who care for them, get a flu jab. We don’t want anyone to take a gamble with their health when an effective vaccine is available.”
The cold can often help alert people, without a diagnosed lung condition, to identify some of the early warning signs.
Anyone who notices the cold weather bringing on a cough, phlegm and shortness of breath, should consider getting it checked out by their GP.
Flu on top of long term health conditions like these increases your chance of serious health complications and a hospital visit. Speak to your GP or pharmacist about the vaccination, which is the best protection we have against an unpredictable virus.