East Kent Hospitals is urging local people to keep well this winter, and be aware of the negative impact that cold weather can have on older people and the susceptible.
The Trust is also asking people to help the NHS by seeking help in GP surgeries and pharmacies instead of A&E departments, which should only be attended by those with serious or life-threatening conditions.
Dr Paul Stevens, East Kent Hospitals Medical Director, said: “For many people, cold and damp weather doesn’t present a problem.
“But some people, such as the elderly or those with an existing long-term health problem can be more susceptible to cold-related illness. The disabled and those on a low income, who worry about heating bills, may also be more vulnerable.”
Dr Stevens added: “The winter always brings pressure to the NHS, but local people can help us, preferably by staying well, but when you do need medical help by accessing the most appropriate service that is available.”
By heating a home to 18 degrees Celsius, keeping out drafts and wearing several layers of clothing if need be, it is possible to keep warm without worrying about energy costs.
And basic hygiene such as hand-washing with soap can destroy many germs that cause colds.
But anyone who does start to feel unwell or has a minor illness such as a sore throat or headache should have a chat with their pharmacist.
Call NHS 111 if you urgently need medical help or advice but it's not a life-threatening situation. You can also call NHS 111 if you're not sure which NHS service you need. Call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.
Visit a walk-in centre, minor injuries unit or urgent care centre if you have a minor illness or injury (cuts, sprains or rashes) and it can't wait until your GP surgery is open.
Ask your local pharmacist for advice – your pharmacist can give you advice for many common minor illnesses, such as diarrhoea, minor infections, headache, travel advice or sore throats.