Get winter ready: HSE issue advice on preventing illness

Get winter ready: HSE issue advice on preventing illness

Vaccination is the most effective method - tried, tested and very closely monitored for safety and effectiveness - for preventing infection

THE HSE has reminded people again to keep well over the winter season and has offered some practical advice to help.

The HSE, in a statement issed by the UL Hospitals Group, is advising people to get winter ready, as the potential for flu and winter vomiting bug outbreaks increases.

Dr Vida Hamilton, HSE National Clinical Advisor, Acute Hospitals, people who are fit and healthy can usually weather these infections with bed rest, plenty of fluids and over-the-counter symptom relief. However, these infections are very contagious so infected people need to be very careful of managing their surroundings and who they come in contact with.

“Unfortunately, infected people are contagious even before they become symptomatic so it can be very difficult to prevent spread to loved ones who are not so healthy and fit.

“Prevention is much better than cure, even if you are in great health yourself, fit and healthy people have different abilities to fight off infection due to their different genetics. You don’t necessarily know how good your infection fighting genes are until you get a really bad infection.

“How can we prevent infection? Vaccination is the most effective method --tried, tested and very closely monitored for safety and effectiveness. The current flu vaccine is a good match for the circulating flu viruses, which is good news. Unfortunately there is no effective vaccine for winter vomiting bug so we are back to good infection control practice.

“There is also a vaccine recommended for people with chronic disease called the pneumococcal vaccine. This vaccine protects vulnerable people from bad pneumonia and meningitis caused by this bug.”

Dr Hamilton added: “More than 60% of people over 50 are living with a chronic condition such as asthma, COPD, diabetes and heart failure. They, along patients living with cancer and immunosuppression, are more vulnerable to infection and need to protect themselves with vaccination against flu and pneumonia. We know that 20% of patient admissions to hospital are due to chest infections and prevention is always better than cure.  

“Handwashing is vitally important as viruses can live for days on surfaces and our hands, then bring the bugs to our faces, which can lead to winter vomiting or flu. Every time you wash your hands you protect yourself,” she added.

Who is vulnerable to bad infections in winter?

-  The older person > 65 years

-  The person with chronic disease

-  Chronic lung problems (COPD, Asthma)

-  Diabetes

-  Chronic heart disease

-  Chronic kidney or liver disease

-  Living with cancer

-  Conditions or treatment that weakens the immune system

-  Frailty (poor nutritional and mobility status)

If you or your loved one fall into any of the above categories, get yourself winter ready:

1.       Get vaccinated

2.       Review your medication and the management of your chronic disease with your healthcare provider - this could be the specialty outreach nurse or your GP

3.       Avoid people with obvious symptoms of infection

4.       Wash your hands frequently – many of the bugs that cause infection can live for many days on table tops and other surfaces

5.       If you become unwell check out the range of services that are available, from:

-  Advice (from you pharmacist, online on www.undertheweather.ie, www.hse.ie/winter)

-  GP

-  Out of hours

-  Emergency Department

6.       If you have a minor injury, check if there is an injury unit near you on www.hse.ie/injuryunits as the waiting time is a lot shorter than the Emergency Department. But remember they only look after minor injuries, not illness.

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