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Keeping warm and well in the cold weather

Person in a blanket sneezingBad weather can be a hazard for vulnerable people or those with long term health conditions.

Warnings

With weather warnings in place and frosty temperatures forecast for this week, Sefton residents are being asked to look out for their relatives, friends and neighbours, and to follow the NHS advice on keeping safe and well.

Keep warm

If you are aged 65 or have long term conditions such as heart or kidney disease, diabetes or breathing conditions, try to keep warm by heating your home to at least 18°C (65°F). You should also wear several layers of light clothes to keep warm, as multiple layers will trap warm air better than one bulky layer of clothing.

Keeping warm over the winter months can also help us all to prevent colds, flu and more serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression. Have at least one hot meal a day and have hot drinks regularly. Sefton has a Warm Spaces programme, with locations for individuals and families to visit to keep warm throughout the winter. You can view an interactive map and daily timetable of Warm Spaces across the borough as well as more information about the initiative at www.seftoncvs.org.uk/warmspaces.

If you do go outside during, cold, wet and windy weather, remember to wear shoes with a good grip to prevent slips and falls. If possible, stay inside during a cold period if you have heart or respiratory problems.

Be prepared

Ensure you have stocked your cupboards with food and medications in advance, to avoid going out in the bad weather. There are a variety of items available at your local pharmacy that you can have at home to keep healthy and treat minor illnesses, such as pain relief medications, lozenges, cold and cough syrups, antihistamines, and much more.

Cold weather can also increase your risk for respiratory infections such as flu and COVID-19 and getting vaccinated is the best protection against both viruses. It’s important to get both vaccines when you’re eligible.

Susanne Lynch MBE, head of medicines management for Sefton, said: “Help and advice is available from local pharmacies in Sefton, and through programmes such as Care at the Chemist where you can get treatment for minor illnesses without the need to visit your GP first.

“Cold weather can impact your health so it is important to check in on everyone in our local communities and if you do become ill we ask that you think about self-care, contacting NHS 111 for non-emergencies and speaking to your local pharmacist.”

Where to get help

If you have an urgent medical problem, but not an emergency, get help from NHS 111 by visiting: www.111.nhs.uk online, or calling 111. You can also access NHS advice and information at www.nhs.uk.

For urgent consultations, advice and treatment for minor injuries and illnesses in both children and adults, the Litherland urgent treatment centre on Hatton Hill Road is open 7 days a week from 8am until 8pm. You can make an appointment via NHS 111, or walk in without an appointment.

For treatment and medications without the need to visit your GP, the Care at the Chemist scheme is available in 31 participating pharmacies across Sefton, for common illnesses and conditions such as coughs, colds, fever, headaches, sore throat and many more. The medicines are prescribed free of charge for anyone who does not pay for their prescriptions. Those who do pay will be charged the current prescription charge, or lower if they are cheaper to buy over the counter.

If you are worried about keeping warm and paying your fuel bills you can contact the Council’s Affordable Warmth Service on 0151 934 2222 or the local Energy Advice Freephone line on 0800 043 0151.

Angela White OBE, chief executive of Sefton CVS said: “During the upcoming cold weather, we encourage everyone to look out for one another in our communities, especially for vulnerable residents and neighbours or those living alone.

“Encourage anyone vulnerable to come along to our network of Warm Spaces available across Sefton over the winter months for those who may be struggling to heat their homes. Some sites offer a ‘basic’ warm space whilst others offer an ‘enhanced’ warm space with food and activities.

“If you’re worried about a relative or an elderly neighbour, contact your local council or ring the Age UK helpline on 0800 678 1602.”

Find out about Sefton’s network of Warm Spaces.

 

UKHSA update on scarlet fever and invasive group A strep

Group A strep virus cellsData from UK Health Security Agency show that scarlet fever cases and group A streptococcus (GAS) cases continue to remain higher than would typically be seen at this time of year in the North West.

Scarlet fever is usually a mild illness, but it is highly infectious.

Symptoms

This means you should look out for symptoms in your child, which include a sore throat, headache, and fever, along with a fine, pinkish or red body rash with a sandpapery feel. On darker skin the rash can be more difficult to detect visually but will have a sandpapery feel.

Contact NHS 111 or your GP if you suspect your child has scarlet fever, because early treatment with antibiotics is important to reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia or a bloodstream infection. If your child has scarlet fever, keep them at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid spreading the infection to others.

Rare circumstances

Dr Merav Kliner, Deputy Director, UKHSA North West, said:  “We are seeing a higher number of cases of group A strep this year than usual in the North West. The bacteria usually causes a mild infection producing sore throats or scarlet fever that can be easily treated with antibiotics.

“In very rare circumstances, this bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause serious illness – called invasive group A strep (iGAS). This is still uncommon however it is important that parents are on the lookout for symptoms and see a doctor as quickly as possible so that their child can be treated and we can stop the infection becoming serious.

“Make sure you talk to a health professional if your child is showing signs of deteriorating after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection.”

Bacteria

Scarlet fever is caused by bacteria called group A streptococci. These bacteria also cause other respiratory and skin infections such as Strep throat and impetigo.

In very rare occasions, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause an illness called invasive group A strep. While still uncommon, there has been an increase in invasive group A strep cases this year, particularly in children under 10.

Investigations are also underway following reports of an increase in lower respiratory tract group A strep infections in children over the past few weeks, which have caused severe illness.

No evidence

 Currently, there is no evidence that a new strain is circulating. The increase is most likely related to high amounts of circulating bacteria and social mixing.

 There are lots of viruses that cause sore throats, colds and coughs circulating. These should resolve without medical intervention. However, children can on occasion develop a bacterial infection on top of a virus and that can make them more unwell.

Parents

As a parent, if you feel that your child seems seriously unwell, you should trust your own judgement.

Contact NHS 111 if or your GP if:

  • your child is getting worse
  • your child is feeding or eating much less than normal
  • your child has had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more or shows other signs of dehydration
  • your baby is under 3 months and has a temperature of 38C, or is older than 3 months and has a temperature of 39C or higher
  • your baby feels hotter than usual when you touch their back or chest, or feels sweaty
  • your child is very tired or irritable

Call 999 or go to A&E if:

  • your child is having difficulty breathing – you may notice grunting noises or their tummy sucking under their ribs
  • there are pauses when your child breathes
  • your child’s skin, tongue or lips are blue
  • your child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake

Good hand and respiratory hygiene are important for stopping the spread of many bugs. By teaching your child how to wash their hands properly with soap for 20 seconds, using a tissue to catch coughs and sneezes, and keeping away from others when feeling unwell, they will be able to reduce the risk of picking up, or spreading, infections.

Group A Strep – What you need to know (UKHSA)

Scientists advise Christmas shoppers to wash their hands to help prevent the spread of bacteria to the vulnerable

An investigation unveiled potential dangers lurking on self-service screens and handrails as the festive season gets underway

Christmas shoppingHealth chiefs are warning Christmas shoppers to massively step up their hand hygiene after a public health study identified thousands of bacteria living on self-checkouts, including those normally associated with faeces.

Microbes

Microbes that are commonly found in the intestines and can lead to urinary tract infections (UTIs) were also discovered on swabs taken at self-service points across a number of UK stores as part of the project.

With the festive shopping period in full swing and time-poor consumers opting for speedy self-service checkouts, the Champs Public Health Collaborative is calling on people to take extra care to protect themselves and others as we prepare for the annual spike of winter illnesses such as Norovirus and flu.

Swabs

As part of the experiment, scientists analysed 19 swabs from a range of other everyday objects such as escalator handrails, public toilet door handles, as well as office computer keyboards, pets and pet toys.

Following examination, the samples revealed thousands of bacteria, including E. coli – a bacteria that can lead to a range of gastro-intestinal illnesses – being present on almost all objects investigated.

A bug commonly found in the vagina, mouth, throat and gut called Candida albicans, which has the potential to cause a yeast infection, was discovered on an escalator handrail, while intestinal microbes that can cause a range of infections in humans, including UTIs were found on computer keyboards.

Bacteria

Dr Adam Roberts, one of the chief researchers within the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON), which is led by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), which produced the analysis of the bacteria said: “We live in a bacterial world – bacteria and microbes are everywhere, and we come into contact with them all day, every day.

“It’s vital to try to minimise their effects in terms of infection prevention and control, so when we touch our mouths or go to the toilet and don’t wash our hands, we’ve likely got bacteria from these places on our hands which can then transfer to other things – and subsequently to other people.

“If those individuals are more susceptible to infection than you are, there may be a problem.

“The self-checkout samples had one of the highest bacterial loads, as we found five different types of potential disease-causing bacteria surviving on them. This included Enterococcus which is found in human faeces and, while this is usually harmless, it can of course lead to disease, particularly in those who may have weakened immune systems.

“We found multiple examples of E. coli and a bacteria called Klebsiella on computer keyboards. While both exist naturally in faeces and intestines, given the right environment, they are able to cause quite severe diseases in humans, so it’s vital that we wash our hands before and after eating when working at the computer.”

You can see more about the research and the results here.

Vigilance

Now, as we head further into winter and prepare for a range of infectious diseases to soar, medical experts at Champs Public Health Collaborative – a public health partnership between nine Directors of Public Health across Cheshire and Merseyside – are urging us all to be extra vigilant and keep washing our hands regularly.

It comes as part of a wider campaign, Simple Things, which was launched after researchers found that two thirds of people are worried about the spread of infectious diseases this winter, with younger people having the most concerns.

Simple Things

The Simple Things initiative calls on people to practise four key measures to prevent the spread of winter illness – hand washing, sanitising surfaces, keeping distance when unwell and covering sneezes or coughs.

For more information about the Simple Things campaign, visit: www.simplethings-nhs.com

Sefton care homes invited to benefit from new round of grants

Sefton Council is launching a new round of Care Home Improvement Grants to help improve care home facilities across the Borough.

The Grant Programme, which gives care homes the opportunity to make facilities more dementia friendly and support living experiences, demonstrates Sefton Council’s continued commitment to backing the local nursing and residential care home sector and improve the quality of its offering to service users.

A flyer detailing the Sefton Care Homes Capital Improvement Programme.Care Homes in Sefton can apply for a grant of up to £25,000 to make their facilities more dementia friendly.

Applications are expected to contain projects that will improve outdoor or communal areas within care homes making them more dementia friendly to allow for more social interaction and activities. Sefton Council is also encouraging those who apply to consider technological equipment that can improve residents’ quality of life and digital solutions to support a greener carbon footprint and energy efficiency.

This round of grants is the third of the Programme.

The Care Home Improvement Grants in rounds one and two benefitted 58 care homes across Sefton, and the Council expects more care homes to benefit from the Grants Programme in round three.

Thornton Lodge in Crosby was one of 36 care homes to receive a grant in round one of the funding. They used it to install new seating and raised flower beds in their communal garden providing residents with greater ownership over their space. The home also installed a turfed bowling green after asking residents what features they would like to see.

Cambridge Court Care Home in Waterloo used their grant to create a hair salon for residents to visit, as well as improving their outdoor area. The salon has proved to be popular with residents, with numerous residents saying that they go at least once a week to get their hair done.

Speaking about the changes, one resident said: “We love our garden and I love to do my morning exercise while listening to the birds sing.”

Another care home that received a grant in round one of the Programme was Good Companions, who used the money to incorporate interactive tables, robotic pets and therapy dolls into their home.

Cllr Cummins, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care said: “I am delighted that Sefton Council are, once again, able to offer grants to care home providers in the borough.

“We have already seen some great improvements to the lives of care home residents, particularly for those living with dementia.

“There has been great innovation in the use of technology, and imagination in the design of environments, making them dementia friendly.

“It’s been heart-warming to hear how the grants have already helped to make people’s everyday lives better.

“This new round of grants will give even more opportunities to care home providers who have fantastic ideas about how to improve their residents’ quality of life.”

Round three of the Care Home Improvement Programme is open to care homes in Sefton now. More information is available at www.sefton.gov.uk/care-home-grants

Sefton Registrars open via appointment only during Christmas shutdown

Sefton’s registrars will continue to operate during the 2022 Christmas shutdown period.

Registrars will be available, via appointment only, to register a death in the borough at Southport Town Hall on:

December 23 (9.15pm – 3pm)
December 28 (9.15am-4pm)
December 29 (9.15am-4pm)
December  30 (9.15am – 3pm)

January 03 (Normal Office Hours)

For more information or to book an appointment call 0151 934 2012/2013/2011.

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