Posted by Bobbie Walkem-Smith at 18/11/2013 12:59:00
NHS Canterbury and Coastal Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is promoting Self-Care Week which runs from Monday 18 November to Sunday 24 November.
Self-care is all about people taking control of their health and staying out of hospital. This is a message that’s particularly important during the winter months for those with long-term conditions, such as heart conditions and lung disease.
When temperatures drop below freezing, those who have high blood pressure or who have suffered a stroke are at increased risk of illness.
Wrapping up warm, watching what you eat and drink and getting more exercise will improve mobility and help ease symptoms.
One of the long-term conditions which needs special care is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – the umbrella term for lung diseases like chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
The drop in temperature can have serious consequences for those who already have COPD. It is a good idea for people with COPD to monitor the Met Office website www.metoffice.gov.uk because it gives advance warning of cold weather which can affect those with breathing problems.
It is also not too late to get a flu jab – vaccination is available free from their GP practice for everyone over 65 and people of all ages with long-term conditions such as COPD. Pregnant women and the main carer of a disabled person are also eligible.
Sometimes, people get worse because they don’t want to bother the doctor. But GPs will always do their best to see patients who need urgent help. Please let the receptionist know if it is urgent. It is important to remember that patients don’t have to be seen by just ‘their’ doctor. All GPs in a practice can see medical notes if needed.
COPD is one of the most common respiratory diseases in the UK. It usually affects people over 35, although most people are not diagnosed until they are in their 50s. The main cause is smoking. If you think you may have COPD, ask your practice nurse for a spirometery test.
NHS Canterbury and Coastal CCG clinical respiratory lead, Dr Simon Dunn, said: “Self-care means that people can empower themselves to have the freedom of looking after their own health. If at all possible, we’d like to see people kept out of hospital and stay at home, where many recover faster and feel better.”
Dr Dunn added: “Across the UK, there are more than three million COPD sufferers, so many people are affected. When temperatures drop in the winter months, COPD can get worse and coughs and colds are more common.
“But by being aware of their condition and taking appropriate care, COPD sufferers can often alleviate the worst symptoms and lead a more independent life.”
COPD affects more men than women, although rates in women are rising. Most people can avoid serious flare-ups over the winter by staying indoors on the worst days, keeping their rooms warm (18-21C) and making sure they use inhalers when needed.
People can get advice from their GP, pharmacist or the free NHS 111 helpline. Or they can visit the Self-Care Week page on the NHS website to take a free LifeCheck which will give tips on how to stay well.