NHS Shetland is urging people to plan ahead and stock their medicine cabinets to be prepared for winter illness as GP surgeries will be closed for four days at Christmas and four at New Year.
Repeat prescriptions requests should be in today (Monday) to guarantee medicines are ready for collection before Christmas.
GP surgeries will be closed from 25th to 28th December inclusive and for four days over New Year, from 1st to 4th January inclusive. However, many GPs will be working throughout this period supporting out of hours services, and pharmacists can also give advice.
Simple steps to preparing for winter and treating common illnesses at home include:
• ensuring medicine cabinets are restocked to deal with minor ailments with items such as pain killers, sore throat remedies and anti-histamines.
• making sure repeat medicines are ordered to avoid running out during weekends or holidays
• understanding the services and advice local pharmacists can provide if people are unwell. Everyone can get advice from a pharmacist. They can recommend the most appropriate treatment for you and you can also buy medicine for a wide range of minor ailments or illnesses, from acne to allergies, coughs to cold sores and hangovers to headaches.
• finding out the opening times of local GPs and pharmacies, particularly over the festive season
• try and keep fit and well by maintaining good hygiene standards – this is important in stopping the spread of flu-like illnesses. Make sure to cough and sneeze into a tissue, dispose of tissues appropriately and wash hands thoroughly and regularly.
Director of clinical services Simon Bokor-Ingram said: “We’d encourage anyone who relies on prescription medication to ensure they get their request to their GP or pharmacist as far in advance of Christmas as possible. Taking time to get prepared can make all the difference to your health.
“Treating common winter illnesses at home will allow NHS Shetland to provide help where it is most needed, and pharmacists can advise on what is needed to treat coughs, colds and flu. Having the medicine cabinet properly stocked will also make things easier if you or a family member becomes ill over Christmas.”
In addition to the usual winter coughs and colds, there has been an increase of the winter vomiting bug thanks to the recent cold snap.
Health chiefs say the virus is self-limiting for most people and it is a matter of letting it run its course. However people can do things themselves to ease the symptoms, including drinking plenty of water to replace lost fluids and prevent dehydration, and following good hygiene measures.
There is a wide range of self care advice, on the norovirus and other common winter bugs, available at www.nhs24.com or people can call the helpline 0800 22 44 88.