Sometimes serious winter illnesses can be avoided by taking action early.
This is the message from Southern DHB and WellSouth as they launch their ‘Plan to be well this winter’ campaign.
The campaign focuses on being proactive about staying well this winter and provides advice to people about how best to manage their health to avoid getting a much more serious illness.
Southern DHB Primary and Community Medical Director Dr Hywel Lloyd acknowledges that “nothing is guaranteed, and there will be times when people become seriously unwell.
“But in many cases, some preventative measures, or seeking help earlier, can mean avoiding a more serious illness.”
WellSouth Medical Director Dr Stephen Graham agrees, and reminds people of the wide range of places available to support people so they can seek care early.
“We want to make sure people know how best to manage their health in winter, and if they do get sick to know to seek help early, and where to get the right care in the right place closer to home. You can call Healthline, or ask for advice from your community pharmacy. If you’re getting worse, your General Practice is the best place to first seek medical attention. Your local urgent primary care facility (including the winter clinic in Invercargill) is also there for you.”
It’s an important message, say those working in Southern DHB’s emergency departments, who see winter illness at its worst.
While acknowledging that some illnesses can escalate quickly, Southern DHB Emergency Department consultant Dr Chris Johnstone says, “Sometimes the Emergency Department ends up looking after people who could have avoided their condition becoming so serious if they had sought help earlier from their doctor.”
Most health services see an increase in illnesses during winter such as the flu and related illnesses and a worsening of chronic conditions. Everyone is at risk of illness over winter, but it’s often the young and people with existing health conditions who are most affected and who can become quite unwell, even leading to hospital admission.
The campaign urges people with long-term health conditions such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease or respiratory illness to prepare for winter by having a flu vaccination to protect themselves, to plan to manage their condition with their GP, and to seek help early if it gets worse. The message is don’t leave your health to chance – and don’t wait for it to become an emergency.
Advice is also available about how to keep your home healthy and also what to do if you’re feeling unwell.
“Keeping warm inside and outside is really important to health especially for the very young, older people or those with chronic conditions. There are a range of health problems associated with cold housing and winter weather, but in particular, a cold indoor or outdoor environment can make heart and respiratory problems worse, and lead to serious complications,” says Dr Lloyd.
A series of posters and advertisements promoting the campaign will soon be seen around the district with the aim that people who are most at risk of preventable emergency admissions to hospital will have information to ensure they plan to be well this winter, if they become unwell to know to seek help early, and if they need medical help where to go to get it.
“We want to ensure that people who are most at risk of preventable emergency admission to hospital are aware of and, wherever possible, understand to take those actions that may avoid a complicated hospital stay this winter,” Dr Lloyd says.