Help Us Help You this winter

At this time of year when cold weather strikes, NHS staff are very busy treating patients who need emergency and urgent care.

We are advising people to follow three easy steps to help them stay well when health services are at their busiest:

❄ prepare a home health kit

❄ download the free Health Help Now app

❄ visit your pharmacy for advice


  1. Prepare a ‘home health kit’ 

We can all help by thinking ahead, and taking some simple steps so that we can treat the most common ailments from the comfort of our homes. 

Make sure you and your family have immediate access to a range of over-the counter-remedies and first aid essentials, which can be picked up easily from a local pharmacy or supermarket to treat symptoms of colds, coughs, headaches, sore throats, stomach problems and minor cuts and scrapes.

Home health kit suggestions… 

  • Painkillers (paracetamol and ibuprofen – including infant/child versions if you have young children)
  • Throat pastilles
  • Digital thermometer
  • Plasters, bandages and sticking tape
  • Antiseptic lotion, cream or spray
  • Anti-diarrhoea tablets
  • Rehydration salts
  • Indigestion treatments

Remember to store medicines out of the reach of children and always follow the instructions on the label, taking notice of the use-by date and check if your family members are allergic to any of the ingredients.

If in doubt, ask your pharmacist. You can use the Health Help Now app to find out opening times of NHS services near you.


  1. Download the Health Help Now app – your pocket guide to NHS services 

If you have a smartphone or computer, download the Health Help Now app. It’s also available from the Google Play Store or the App Store.

It can guide you to the best service for your symptoms, and tell you the nearest NHS services that are open during evenings, weekends and bank holidays.

This website and app launched by the NHS in Kent can help people find the right treatment, any time of day or night, and wherever they are in the county.

The app can help identify where the nearest open pharmacy is, along with instructions on how to get there, which is ideal for evenings, weekends or bank holidays.  Just search for ‘Health Help Now’ online.

Find out where to get health advice and treatment when it’s urgent but not an emergency


  1. Visit your pharmacy for medicines advice and more…

Your local pharmacist is a medicines expert who can advise on the best way to treat colds, coughs, sore throats, hay fever, verrucas, digestive problems and more.

You probably won’t need a prescription as many over-the-counter medicines are readily available for these conditions.

Many pharmacies are open evenings and weekends. Your local pharmacist is fully qualified to advise you on the best course of action and can offer expert advice and treatment for many common illnesses. Please plan-ahead and order any repeat prescriptions from your GP before the weekend.

Browse information about local pharmacies on NHS Choices or via Health Help Now.



What is flu and what are the symptoms?

Some people are more susceptible to the effects of this highly infectious disease. For them, it can increase the risk of developing more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, or can make existing conditions worse. In the worst cases, flu can result in a stay in hospital, or even death. Flu is caused by influenza viruses that infect the windpipe and lungs. And because it’s caused by viruses and not bacteria, antibiotics won’t treat it. If, however, there are complications from getting flu, antibiotics may be needed.

The most common symptoms of flu are fever, chills, headache, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness. A bad bout of flu can be much worse than a heavy cold.


There are many myths about the flu vaccination – visit our Flu FAQ page to find out the facts


How can I protect myself and others against flu?

When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they spread the flu virus in tiny droplets of saliva over a wide area. These droplets can then be breathed in by other people or they can be picked up by touching surfaces where the droplets have landed. You can prevent the spread of the virus by covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and you can wash your hands frequently or use hand gels to reduce the risk of picking up the virus.

But the best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by having the vaccination before the flu season starts.

It is not possible to predict fully the strains of flu that will circulate each year, and there is always a risk of a change in the virus. The most likely viruses that will cause flu each year are identified in advance of the flu season in the UK; and vaccines are then made to match them as closely as possible. The vaccines are given in the autumn ideally before flu starts circulating.

Who is eligible for a free flu vaccine?

Flu vaccines protect against the main three or four types of flu virus most likely to be circulating. Flu can affect anyone but if you also suffer with other health issues the effects of flu can make it worse, even if your existing condition is well managed and you normally feel well. The free flu vaccine is available to anyone who is over the age of 65, pregnant; or has certain medical conditions. People receiving a carer’s allowance, or are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person are also eligible.

This year children aged 2 and 3 years, or in school years Reception, one, two, three, and four are eligible for a child-friendly nasal spray flu vaccine.

What is the advice from public health professionals this year?

Dr John Rodriguez, Public Health Screening and Immunisation lead for Kent and Medway said:
“The flu virus is easily spread within communities. It can be very unpleasant; especially for pregnant women and anyone who suffers with another illness like diabetes, asthma, COPD, heart disease or kidney disease.

“People whose immunity is lowered due to disease or treatment, such as steroid medication or cancer treatment are also at increased risk and should have the flu vaccine as soon as possible. We are keen to ensure all people are vaccinated, but especially those who are at greater risk in the groups already mentioned.

“Every year we see people badly affected by flu and some people die. My message to you is to please take the time to protect yourselves.”

Andrew Scott-Clark, Kent County Council Director of Public Health said:
“There are reports that this year could see more incidents of flu than ever before, particularly because the southern hemisphere flu season has seen large numbers of cases, and experience shows our season tends to follow.

“Certain groups in our community – particularly the young, the elderly and those with co-existing illness – are extremely vulnerable, and for some it can even prove fatal. Our health partners across Kent are already warning of potential major demands on their services this winter and we are fully behind the NHS ‘Stay Well This Winter’ campaign by strongly urging those who are eligible for the flu vaccine to get it now as clearly they will need it.”