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Staying healthy as the weather cools

 
  
 

Autumn is with us: cool, crisp mornings, falling leaves and chillier evenings are signs of the season. As we spend less time outdoors and more in close confines, colds, ‘flus and other viruses start to emerge. Now’s the time to think about getting well and doing all we can to stay that way through the upcoming colder winter months.

 

 
 

 

Your general practice team has a whole lot of ways to help as you head into winter…starting with the trusty ‘flu shot.

 

Flu Facts:

 

Influenza can be a very serious illness for some people, especially those who have a chronic disease, are not in the best of health, pregnant, or older. Your general practice team can help you decide whether a ‘flu vaccination is right for you. If you fall into one of the high-risk categories, you may even be eligible to get it for free. (updated link here once available for 2017 influenza.org.nz)

 

More than a million Kiwis get vaccinated against Influenza every year. Research shows, the earlier in the season, the better, to reap the most protection for yourself and others.

 

If you have questions, talk with your GP or practice nurse. There’s also some great information here.

 

Stopping bugs dead:

 

Safe, effective vaccination against Influenza can go a long way towards keeping you well this winter, but there are other simple and important ways to minimise your risk of catching the ‘flu virus or spreading it to others.

  • Wash your hands, well, for at least 20 seconds, and then dry for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and put the tissue in a lined bin.
  • If there’s no tissue, cough into your elbow.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Don’t share drinks.
  • Avoid crowded places.

 

Autumn Allergies:

 

Many people associate allergies with spring pollen, but allergy sufferers know that autumn can stir things up just as much. Falling leaves, cooler air and mould spores can all be culprits.

 

You may be tempted to run to the pharmacy for the nearest over-the-counter, but if your symptoms seem to be set-in and they reappear season after season, it is well worth a trip to see your family practice team. Not only can you save a lot of money on trying remedies that might not work, you can avoid days of uncomfortable symptoms.

 

One other reason to take persistent allergies seriously is their link to asthma. Around 80% of asthmatics are also hay fever sufferers, and bad hay fever can make asthma worse.

 

Eating for health:

Autumn brings with it many fresh seasonal fruits and veges to add variety to your diet.

Winter dark greens, yellows and oranges not only add colours to food, but come packed with vitamins and minerals to shore you up when the inevitable ‘flus and colds hit.

 

If you’re generally healthy, eat a balanced diet and don’t have a health condition that requires specific supplementation (like folic acid in pregnancy or B12 in pernicious anaemia) real food is the best place to get those vitamins and minerals. There’s a lot of hype around pills and potions that promise to do the job, but they don’t always offer any measurable benefit – and sometimes, can even do you harm.

 

Talk with your practice team to find out if a vitamin supplement is right for you. And don’t forget, always tell your health care providers if you’re taking a medication, prescription or not.

 

Staying on top of chronic conditions:

 

Living with an ongoing condition like diabetes, asthma, heart disease or cancer is hard work. The complications that come from picking up a virus, on top of the underlying issue, make life harder again.

 

If you have a chronic disease, you’ll want to go into winter as healthy as possible, and also ensure that you get the right help, early, if you do become unwell. Having a plan in place with your practice team about when and where to get help if that happens, is a sensible thing to do.

 

But like most things in life, prevention is definitely better than cure, so for a healthier winter ahead:

 

  • Take your medications as prescribed, and stay on top of any repeats.
  • Get educated about your condition and how to care for it (your practice team is the best place to do this – while the internet is overflowing with information, it’s not always reliable and not tailored for you).
  • Know when to seek medical advice and when to get help.
  • Have a plan for after-hours care, and if it’s possible in your part of the country, get a care plan sent from your GP to after hours and hospital services.
  • Have your routine checks when they are due. Sometimes routine checks can be subsidised or even free. Check with your health team if you are eligible for this type of check or for a WINZ allowance which can help with the cost of health care.
  • Don’t let your regular health and fitness routines fall by the wayside as the weather cools off. Keeping active can be just as important to staying well as diet and medications.

 

Get set before you escape to warmer climes:

 

A quick hop to a Pacific island may sound like a dream as autumn starts to bite, but it can quickly turn into a nightmare if you pick up a new and nasty bug. Your general practice team can advise what travel vaccinations you might need or first aid supplies it would be prudent to carry.

 

If you’re going further afield, do your homework before you head to the airport. Some medications that are common in New Zealand are only able to be carried into some countries in limited quantities, or even not at all. At the very least, get a copy of your prescription and a note from your GP about what medications you are on and the conditions they treat. It could save you a lot of time if you need to get care overseas.

 

Make sure medications are in their original containers with the pharmacy label on.

If you are carrying controlled drugs such as morphine or methadone, you’ll need to carry a letter from your GP.

 

Be sure to keep your medications with you – not in your checked luggage. That way you won’t be caught short if your bags go astray.

 

Remember, your NZ prescription won’t be valid in another country, but at least the medical professional you see can get an accurate picture of your history and what you take on a regular basis.



   
 

 
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