'Get ready for winter' checklist – Stay warm and healthy

Being ready for whatever the coldest season brings can help us stay well.

Here are our tips:

1. Stock up on medication essentials

Try to order prescriptions in advance to ensure you have enough stock should you be stuck indoors due to bad weather or illness. Some pharmacies deliver – check whether yours does. Be prepared for winter with some cold, flu and pain-relief medication, just in case you need it.

2. Don’t forget your flu jab

Flu is not to be taken lightly and even an otherwise healthy person can take at least a week to recover from it. If you’re offered the annual flu jab, the NHS recommends that you accept it. Children, older people and those with health conditions or weakened immune systems are strongly advised to seek immunisation.

Some are concerned about safety. The NHS explain that “vaccines have to be thoroughly tested for safety before they're made routinely available” and that “each vaccine’s safety is continually monitored” to ensure its continued safe use. All vaccines do have the potential to cause side effects – such as mild fever or fatigue. However, these are uncommon and when they do occur they only last a few days. Despite myths to the contrary, serious side effects are rare. Click here to learn more about how to avoid colds and flu.

3. Check your heating

Before you need it most, it’s good to get your boiler and heating system serviced and to stock up on any necessary house fuel, to ensure you have heat when you most need it. Staying warm is essential because when you’re cold, your heart has to work harder to keep your body warm. This can put you at greater risk of a heart attack or stroke.

4. Make time to socialise

The dark winter months can make many people less inclined to socialise. However, evidence shows that loneliness can be as detrimental to health as being a moderate smoker. Planning to meet friends and family can help ease isolation. If you’re of retirement age, or thereabouts, for new ideas on how to socialise, find out what’s going on locally via The University of the Third Age.

5. Be well equipped

Antifreeze for the car, a snow shovel and grit for the path, plus some walking boots or wellies with good grip are all part of your arsenal to deal with icy or snowy weather.

6. Stockpile household essentials

Before it gets cold, think of all the things you’d need if you were snowed in and buy some extra. Perhaps a couple of loaves and pints of milk for the freezer, some extra tins of food, tea bags – and don’t forget toilet paper. If you’re making homemade dishes or soups, why not double the quantity and freeze extra portions for emergencies?

7. Positively tackle SAD

It’s well known that winter can bring on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a serious condition in which depression is brought on by a lack of sunshine. If you’re susceptible – and one in 15 is – then see our tips for beating SAD here. If you’re still finding it hard to shake off your blues and need some help, Benenden Health members can speak to the Mental Health Helpline, quoting your membership number, on 0800 414 8247 (select option 2).