HEALTH chiefs in Northumberland are warning people to prepare for the wintry weather.
NHS North of Tyne advises people to take precautions to try to keep well through the cold spell, and top of the list is staying warm.
Members of the public are also urged to look out for elderly or vulnerable friends, relatives and neighbours.
Medical Director Dr Mike Guy said: “The elderly are particularly vulnerable during cold weather and we all have a role to play in remembering the needs of friends, relatives and neighbours who could be at risk, especially at this time of year.”
Hospital A&E departments see a rise in injuries from slips, trips and falls during the winter, but around half the deaths brought on by cold weather are due to heart disease or stroke.
Tips for keeping warm include closing curtains and doors at home, using hot water bottles or electric blankets, eating well, with regular hot meals and plenty to drink, and wrapping up warm inside and out using several thin layers and wearing hats, gloves and scarves outdoors.
People with heart or breathing problems should try to stay inside during cold periods and keep active.
Moving around at least once an hour will help people stay warm and improve circulation.
Director of Public Health for Northumberland Care Trust Prof Sue Milner said: “It’s particularly important for the elderly to keep warm during the winter.
“Colder weather increases blood pressure and those already with heart and vascular disease are most at risk from developing a stroke or heart problem in cold conditions. Also, the elderly are often at greater risk from the cold because they may not keep their houses at a warm enough temperature during the winter months.
“During cold weather there is also an increased risk of injury from falls and people are more prone to seasonal illnesses, such as flu.”
People are also being reminded of the importance of choosing the most appropriate service for their symptoms if they fall ill to help the NHS cope with the challenges of winter.
Self-care, with over the counter medicine and rest, is best for minor illnesses, NHS Direct can answer health questions and direct people to appropriate services, pharmacists can advise on illnesses and the right medication and doctors are there for medical advice, examinations and prescriptions for illnesses that patients can not shake off.
NHS walk-in centres can treat minor injuries and A&E is for critical situations and serious injuries.