GPs say prompt action can help you fight off winter illness

People in Northamptonshire who suffer from a long-term health condition are being urged to “act early” if they feel unwell to avoid a minor illness becoming more serious.

With colder weather approaching, local hospitals and GP practices across the county are already seeing large numbers of patients with respiratory conditions and chest infections.

In many cases, patients have developed more serious conditions requiring urgent care after failing to treat a cough or cold that might have been dealt with much earlier if they had taken over-the-counter medicines or sought medical advice from a pharmacy.

People with respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or severe asthma, can be particularly susceptible to the effects of cold weather, finding themselves shorter of breath and coughing more than usual.

Children are also more vulnerable than adults to developing upper respiratory tract infections (RTIs) – which affect the nose, sinuses and throat – because they have not built up immunity to the many viruses that can cause these, including the common cold.

GPs say that taking simple steps to stay healthy during the winter can help ward off colds and infections, and this can ease the pressure on local NHS services.

Dr Matthew Davies, a local GP and Medical Director at Nene Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “If you suffer from a long-term condition such as COPD, it's important to look after your health during the colder winter months and that means keeping warm, staying active and eating well. Those on medication should also ensure they have it with them at all times – and people with a lung condition should take advantage of the free NHS flu vaccination

“Most coughs and colds pass without the need for medical treatment and you won't usually need to see your GP. You can treat your symptoms at home by taking over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, or drinking plenty of fluids and resting.

“If you do feel unwell, it's important to act early to ensure a cough or cold does not become more serious. That will help you get better more quickly and save you a trip to your GP or local hospital – allowing our local NHS services to focus on those who need them.” 

If you do need health advice in Northamptonshire this winter, you can seek from:

  • Your local pharmacy – Many common illnesses such as coughs or colds can be best and most easily treated by visiting your local pharmacy. You can speak to a pharmacist without having to make an appointment. Your pharmacist can advise you how to look after yourself at home with rest and over-the-counter treatments, and provide advice on how on how to quit smoking. Many also offer the flu vaccination. To find your local pharmacy and the services it offers,
  • NHS 111 service – If you need medical help quickly, but your condition is not life threatening, you can call NHS 111. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the free telephone service is staffed by trained advisors and experienced clinicians who can assess you, offer advice and direct you to the right place to get the medical care you need as quickly as possible.

The best way to tackle ill health is to avoid it in the first place. Making small changes to your lifestyle, such as by staying active or making health food choices, can make a big difference to your future health. For more advice on staying well this winter visit