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10 top tips to stay well this winter

With Covid still very much in circulation, it is as important as ever to look after your health this winter.

Somerset County Council’s Public Health team is urging everyone to think ahead and consider others, such as neighbours and close relatives, and put things in place now to protect their health.

Cold weather brings with it a number of health risks, in particular it can increase blood pressure and make fighting infection more difficult, especially among older adults and other vulnerable groups.

Importantly, we know that most winter-related illnesses in England occur at temperatures that can appear to be quite mild and well before we might see snow or ice – at between 4°C–8°C.

It can make a huge difference if you check whether relations, neighbours or others you care for are able to keep their homes warm early in the cold weather season and keep checking even when temperatures remain mild.

Trudi Grant, Somerset Director of Public Health, said: “Bad weather in the winter months can aggravate existing health problems, make you more vulnerable to illness, make it easier to have accidents like slips and falls and more difficult to get out and about to collect medicines or shop for food, especially for the elderly or those with underlining conditions.

“It is important to stay healthy, especially this year, to give us the best chance against covid and other winter viruses such as the flu. We have prepared some tips that can help better prepare people in our community for the change in season and to stay well.”

Top tips:

  1. Make sure you get your covid vaccine including the booster – it is the best defence against the virus and will help prevent you from becoming seriously ill with it.
  2. If you are entitled to the free flu vaccination, then book it as soon as possible – it can be booked quickly and easily by contacting your GP or local pharmacy.
  3. Keep your home ventilated to let the virus out, especially when you have guests and continue to follow  the other guidance to protect yourself from covid – wash your hands regularly, wear a face mask in public places and socially distance.
  4. It is important to keep warm in winter, so heat your home to at least 18°C (65°F), if you can, you might prefer your living room to be slightly warmer.
  5. Call NHS 111 if you need medical help but it’s not life threatening, or you are not sure where to go for help
  6. Eat a wide range of vegetables, fruit (aim for between 5 and 7 portions) protein and 2 portions of fish (1 oily)
  7. Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated – the government recommends drinking 6 to 8 glasses every day.
  8. Keep active – regular exercise is important for your health and wellbeing – you don’t have to run a marathon, short walks can help you keep well
  9. Is your medicine cabinet ready for winter? Your pharmacist can advise you on which medicines you should have in your cabinet to help you and your family through winter.
  10. To help combat loneliness try to get outdoors or involve yourself with some social activities. Look to see what events are on at your local community centre, visit the theatre, join a group of like-minded individuals, or take up a new hobby. Even walking to the shops or walking around a park will bring you into contact with people and just saying ‘hello’ and getting a kind word back in return will boost your confidence. If it is icy or has been snowing, make sure you have suitable footwear and someone to assist you if required.
 
 

‘Tis the season to be gritting…

 As days become shorter and nights chillier, Somerset County Council’s fleet of 23 gritters is ready to be mobilised as soon as the temperature drops below zero in coming months.

Salt barns across Somerset are fully stocked and the team is on standby to treat 900 miles of road when the mercury plummets.

Last year our fleet of nearly two dozen gritters went out on 66 occasions when freezing temperatures were forecast, covering 70,200 miles help prevent ice forming with 1842 route actions in total – a significant increase from previous years.

This year the fleet is being bolstered with 20 new snow blowers, four new snow ploughs and there are three extra weather stations to signal cold weather warnings.

“Our dedicated teams are ready to spring into action when needed after working hard throughout the year to make sure our salt is stocked and our equipment is checked,” said Cllr John Woodman, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways.

“Be assured they’re checking the forecasts every day to ensure gritters go out whenever road surface temperatures drop, and frost or snow is anticipated.”

 What roads do we treat?

We treat over a fifth of Somerset’s roads, marked in red on the map here.

Our main priority is to keep the busiest routes clear whenever ice or snow is expected. The priority is roads that link major towns, villages and communities on high ground and the important routes across the County for long distance travel.

 When do the gritters come out?

We carry out gritting when road surface temperatures are predicted to drop below 1°C and ice or snow is expected. Precautionary gritting normally takes place before the formation of ice – so that generally means our teams are out in the evening or early morning.

In the event of snow, we have established plans in place, working alongside the emergency services and partners to clear the network as quickly as possible. We can equip our gritters with snowploughs and have arrangements with farmers and snowplough operators who are employed to clear snow on our behalf. We prioritise our primary network and move on to clear our secondary and minor networks as resources allow.

Why don’t we salt every road in Somerset?

We can’t treat every road, as there aren’t enough gritters, drivers and depot staff to make this cost-efficient. However, we are carrying on our work with parish councils to fill roadside grit bins on request and are continuing to run a community-led snow warden scheme.

 Getting about

Rain can wash salt away and in very low temperatures gritting may not be enough to prevent freezing – so drivers are always advised to take extra caution in winter.

Only the busiest roads are gritted, and most are not, so ensure you plan ahead and drive carefully, particularly if frost has followed rain.

Remember to:

For more information about Somerset County Council’s winter service programme, including a searchable map showing all the roads treated, please visit www.travelsomerset.co.uk/gritting and follow @TravelSomerset on Twitter and Facebook.

The Road Safety team also have plenty of advice for road users in the winter months, so make sure to follow @SCC_RoadSafety and visit their website www.somersetroadsafety.org for more.

Bus Back Better update

Here is the link for Somerset’s Bus Service Improvement Plan. Go to the following link and scroll to “The full Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP)” https://www.somerset.gov.uk/roads-and-transport/transport-strategy/#The-National-Bus-Strategy-2021:-Bus-Back-Better

The above YouTube video gives you access to the full meeting that received the consultation update in November 2021.

  • The Bus Back Better group have applied for £163 million to improve bus services in the county.
  • Running an existing bus costs around £150k p.a. and a small electric midi/mini bus is around £225,000 based on a fleet in Brighton.
  • Private occupancy singe cars are a challenge.  Somerset currently has a 1% usage by bus and 84% by car.
  • Somerset is the 2nd worst county for bus use in the country.
  • It is likely that rural services will not get much improvement as they are concentrating on improving major routes where there is more likelihood of creating a sustainable service to continue after the grant money has run out.   However there is a project looking at ‘demand services’.
  • Starting a bus service route where there is none is very difficult.

Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) Declared from 3-11-21

Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service have advised us that as of 5pm on the 3 November 2021 an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone was declared across Great Britain. This means that all bird keepers in Great Britain (whether they have pet birds, commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard are required by law to take a range of bio-security precautions:

  • Schedule 1 – Minimum biosecurity measures applying to all keepers
  • Keep domestic ducks and geese separate from other poultry.
  • Ensure the areas where birds are kept are unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds, and by removing wild bird food sources.
  • Feed and water their birds in enclosed areas to discourage wild birds.
  • Minimise movement into and out of bird enclosures.
  • Cleanse and disinfect footwear and keep areas where birds live clean and tidy.
  • Reduce any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas and fencing off wet or boggy areas.
  • Keep free ranging birds within fenced areas, and ponds, watercourses and permanent standing water must be fenced off (except in specific circumstances, e.g., zoo birds).
  • Schedule 2 –Enhanced biosecurity measures for premises with over 500 poultry or other captive birds

Keepers with more than 500 birds will need to restrict access for non-essential people on their sites, workers will need to change clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and site vehicles will need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

Full details of what is required can be found on the government website: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1030990/aipz-declaration.pdf

To assist all bird keepers in complying with the new rules, the biosecurity guidance and self-assessment checklists   have been updated and all the latest information can be found at

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu#biosecurity

Remember that if you have poultry it is your responsibility to keep updated on any outbreaks and an easy way to do this is to sign up for text notifications – register with the APHA alerts service.