With this time of the year offering some level of downtime from the usual on-farm demands, it is a good opportunity to take stock of our health and wellness and make sure we get through the winter fit and healthy and ready for the busy spring period.

With that in mind, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has some useful tips to help us weather the darker, wintry weeks with its recently published guide to staying well.

Covid-19 still maintains a strong presence in our lives, but as we navigate the winter months ahead, it is handy to remind ourselves of other health risks and how to manage them should they arise.

The guide contains useful information about accessing emergency services and how to manage common winter illnesses such as coughs, colds and flu, and how to protect yourself and others this winter.

Viral infections

Covid-19 is certainly dominating the viral illness news, but other viruses haven’t gone away.

These include:

  • Flu (influenza);
  • Norovirus (a stomach bug causing vomiting and diarrhoea);
  • Respiratory tract infections – for example, the common cold, pneumonia or tonsillitis.

The HSE advises that adhering to the public-health advice around Covid-19 will help to stop the spread of tummy bugs and flu.

But it is important to remember that these common viral infections in winter can be dangerous if you are over the age of 65, or have a chronic illness.

If you are fit and healthy, you can usually get over such infections by:

  • Resting;
  • Drinking plenty of fluids;
  • Using medicine you buy from a pharmacy or shop without a prescription.

Viral infections are very contagious. They can spread quickly before you notice the symptoms and it can be difficult to stop them spreading to people who are vulnerable.

Other handy information contained in the guide includes accessing services including the GP; the GP out-of-hours service; injury units; and emergency departments, giving details on locations and opening times of such services near you.

Emergency departments
Emergency departments (EDs) are busy places. Often you’ll have to wait a long time to be seen and the sickest people are seen first.

According to the HSE, you should go to an ED if you:

  • Are feeling unwell and getting sicker, faster;
  • Are sick and cannot keep fluids down;
  • Have not urinated in over 12 hours and have no urge to do so;
  • Are not feeling well and become confused and agitated;
  • Are breathless;
  • Are very pale with cold hands and feet;
  • Are dizzy when you sit up or are unable to stand;
  • Develop a rash that does not disappear when you press it.

The guide also features information on which healthcare service to access if your child is sick, for example.

Injury units
Are for minor injuries, limb injuries such as broken bones or sprains. Each injury unit is linked to an emergency department (ED) in a hospital. If you are in an injury unit and need to be admitted to hospital, you will be referred directly to the linked hospital.

Injury units will not treat:

  • Pregnancy-related or gynaecological problems;
  • Injuries to the chest, abdomen or pelvis;
  • Serious head and spine injuries.

GP/GP out-of-hours
If you do not require urgent care, go to your GP and if your GP is closed you can access the GP out-of-hours service.

The HSE advises to continue adhering to the public-health advice to help protect yourself and others from Covid-19, which will also help stop the spread of tummy bugs and flu – and get your booster vaccine when eligible.