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Dr Tim Allison: Act to keep yourself and those around you safe this winter

By Dr Tim Allison

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It's advisable to keep your house free of any clutter so as to reduce the risk of a fall.
It's advisable to keep your house free of any clutter so as to reduce the risk of a fall.

Christmas and Hogmanay are of course times of widespread celebration, but winter is also cold and dark and is the time of year when more of us tend to become ill.

There are more chest infections around, and the temperature and lack of light can also lead to more falls.

Keeping our lungs healthy and avoiding falls will make us feel better and help us enjoy the good things about the season, such as the opportunity for many of us to meet up with family and friends.

There are many things that we can do for ourselves that will help us stay healthy.

Keeping our lungs healthy involves protecting ourselves from harmful things that we can breathe in.

The more we take care when we have a cold to use tissues that we then throw away, avoid coughing towards people and wash our hands, the fewer people will get colds and chest infections.

We should also make sure that we are up-to-date with any and all vaccinations and that is not just Covid, but also flu vaccine and the vaccination against pneumonia that is available to provide protection for older and more vulnerable people.

Avoiding taking any kind of polluting material into our lungs will help us stay healthy and stopping smoking is one of the best ways to improve health at any time of year.

For those of us with a lung condition there are other things that we can do, such as making plans in case we have a flare up and carrying reliever medication with us.

We all suffer the risk of falling, especially in the winter months, but if we are older and less mobile then falls are more likely and the effects of any we do suffer is also likely to be more severe.

It is important that we are aware of the weather conditions and take extra care in ice and snow, especially in ungritted areas.

Good footwear is important, both outside and inside the house, and all the better if it has support for our ankles.

Walking on slippery floors in socks or tights can be dangerous.

Other clothing matters too and it is best to avoid wearing any kind of loose clothes that could also trip us up.

We should keep any areas where we are walking in or around the house well lit and free from clutter, clearing up spillages straight away.

Trailing cables and frayed carpets can also be particularly dangerous.

This advice is particularly aimed at those of us who are older or who have ongoing breathing or mobility problems.

But especially at this time of year it is important for all of us.

We want to avoid falling ourselves, but we also want to look after our family as well as friends and neighbours by making our homes and our neighbourhoods healthier for everyone.

For example, it is worth looking around our homes for trip hazards if we are expecting elderly relatives to stay.

We do need to get out in the fresh air, meet others and enjoy winter days.

Indeed, this will improve our health.

But we also need to be mindful of how we can enjoy the winter months while looking after the health of ourselves and others.

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