PEOPLE across Somerset are being reminded that getting a flu jab and taking care of themselves is the best way to stay well this winter.

The message comes from Somerset County Council’s public health teams and the NHS to reduce pressure on medical teams at what is a particularly busy time of the year.

Trudi Grant, Somerset director of public health, said: “Winter brings with it a whole range of illnesses and ailments such as flu, coughs and colds and Norovirus - the winter vomiting bug.

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“Prevention is always better than cure so if you start to feel unwell, at the very first sign of a winter illness, even if it is just a cough or cold, please get advice from your well qualified pharmacist before it gets more serious. Try and eat warm food and drink hot drinks, heat homes to at least 18 degrees and keep active to keep warm.

“Cold and flu viruses are spread when you breathe in droplets that are coughed or sneezed out by an infected person. You can also catch a cold or flu by touching an infected object or surface and then touching your eyes and nose. So making sure we all practice good hand hygiene, by washing your hands often with warm water and soap and coughing or sneezing into a tissue and throwing it away quickly, will help to keep the germ bugs at bay.”

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Councillor Christine Lawrence, Somerset County Council’s cabinet member for public health and wellbeing, is also asking people to keep an eye out for elderly relatives and neighbours and support them in the cold weather.

She said: “If you start to feel unwell, but are generally fit and healthy, you can usually manage the symptoms of a cold or flu yourself without seeing your GP. To help you get better quicker, just rest and sleep, keep warm, drink plenty of water (fruit juice or squash mixed with water is fine) to avoid dehydration and gargle salt water to soothe a sore throat.

“Finally, having a well-stocked medicine cabinet and making the most of your well qualified local pharmacist to treat minor ailments will all help to relieve pressure on the NHS.”

Dr Ed Ford, a Somerset GP and chairman of Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Family doctors are seeing high numbers of elderly patients with symptoms of colds and flu. The elderly, their carers and people living with long-term health problems should get a flu vaccination if they have not already had one. If you start to feel unwell, stay at home and manage your symptoms. Please don’t risk infecting others by visiting people in hospitals or care homes.”

The flu vaccine is the best protection we have against an unpredictable virus and it is vital that those eligible have it every year. People are asked to speak to their GPs about the free flu vaccine now.

People who are unwell should carefully consider the best place to get treatment. Accident and Emergency (A&E) is for life threatening and serious injury only, but there are a range of other options that could suit your needs including your local pharmacy, Somerset Minor Injury Units or calling the national 111 service.