With the weather set to turn colder at the end of the week, senior doctors across Yorkshire are urging the elderly and people with underlying health problems to be prepared to keep well this winter.

Cold and wintry conditions expected over the next few months could bring real health problems for the elderly or local people living with illnesses such as heart disease, lung disease, cancer and asthma.

A fall in temperature to below 12 degrees Celsius, plus common winter illnesses such as coughs, colds, flu and the winter vomiting bug norovirus can have a real impact on their health if they are not prepared.

Paul Johnstone, director of public health at NHS North of England, said: “Each winter we see an increase in the number of people who have underlying health problems being admitted to hospital. They are particularly vulnerable to wintry conditions that don’t cause a problem to the majority of us. “However there are some steps that people with illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and other debilitating conditions can take to help them avoid unwanted hospital visits, such as making sure they have a flu jab, reviewing the medicines they take with their pharmacist and by simply keeping warm.

“There are also things that normally healthy people can do to make sure GP surgeries as well as emergency services and A&E are free for vulnerable people who need treatment as quickly as possible, by thinking twice before contacting NHS service with common winter health complaints such as colds and stomach bugs.”

If you are elderly or have an underlying health problem there are five easy steps you can take to help stay well during the cold weather:

• Make sure you have a flu jab – people can get a free jab from their GP to protect against seasonal flu if they are over 65, have a long-term health condition or are pregnant

• Get your pharmacist to help you review the medicines you take to check that you are on the correct medicine for your condition

• A care plan, which is a checklist of steps you need to manage your condition, can help prevent you becoming ill in the first place

• Keep warm – this is one of the best ways to stay healthy and well this winter, particularly for the elderly

• Check you have the right medicines at home in case you get a cold or stomach upset.

You can find more information and self-care advice on NHS Choices at nhs.uk You can download the Yorkshire and the Humber Choose Well app from the app store or by visiting yorksandhumber.nhs.uk/campaigns/choose_well/