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Keeping Healthy This Winter

4 May 2004

Keeping Healthy This Winter

If you fit into the ‘older person’ age group, here are some tips about how to keep yourself healthy this winter. If you don’t fit the category, keep reading! There are things you can do to help your older relatives, friends and neighbours.

Having an inFLUenza vacination now, keeping warm, eating well and staying active are the key ingredients for a good winter, according to the health experts.

Every year, hundreds of people are hospitalised throughout New Zealand with influenza, and some, particularly older people and those with ongoing medical conditions, can even die. It is a serious situation and this year the Canterbury District Health Board is making an all-out effort to encourage as many people as possible to be vaccinated so they don’t get the flu.

It only takes a visit to your local GP. People aged 65 and over, and people with chronic conditions can get the vaccination free – just talk to your doctor. People who are prone to flu and other winter ailments are encouraged to have the vaccination not only to protect themselves but to protect others around them.

Dr Lance Jennings, the Health Board’s virologist, says influenza is a serious illness and can affect anyone. Being vaccinated is the best protection. If you are a younger person in a house with an older person, or you are a caregiver, act now and have your vaccination.

Keeping you and your home warm are also very important. The recommended temperature for the rooms you live in is 20C (degrees). Health workers and care givers often go into homes where it is very cold and this isnt good for older people’s health, says Elder Care Canterbury project manager Gill Coe. Very cold conditions can lead to increased risk of respiratory illness, a stroke or heart attack. Sometimes, it can also lead to hypothermia.

If people are concerned about the cost of keeping their living rooms warm, Gill Coe says they should contact Community Energy Action. This group works proactively in the community with advice and in some cases provides free curtains (one set per household). Floor and ceiling insulation are invaluable for keeping the house warm and Community Energy Action have subsidies of 50% for Community Service Cardholders to fit insulation into exisiting homes. They also have double glazing kits for windows which is, they say, very easy to install. They also recommend draught stopping around doors and windows.

Practical things like checking heaters, electric blankets, smoke alarm batteries are also important in the lead up to winter. It is also the time to check up on your elderly neighbour, relative or friend.

‘Taking time out to make sure older people are managing well is something we can all do,’ says Gill Coe. Sometimes people who live on their own don’t always take good care of themselves. This is the time to be a good neighbour and see that they are OK.’

The other message from the District Health Board this winter is to keep active and eat well. Gill Coe says there are lots of activities and events throughout the region, or people can simply dress warmly and go for a walk. Winter meals should include at least one proper hot meal each day and include fresh fruit and vegetables in the diet. It’s also a good idea to have hot drinks regularly.

Keeping well in winter in important for everyone, but especially for older people. And remember: the free flu vaccination for people over 65 and for those with chronic conditions only applies until 30 June.


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