Go well this winter
Winter is a period of increased illness. Flu, COVID-19, colds and coughs spread easily and can make people seriously unwell.
Practising healthy habits over winter will help to decrease the spread of illnesses, and to keep ourselves, our whānau and our communities safe.
Keep up those healthy habits
Our experience with COVID-19 has taught us a lot about how effective public health measures are at protecting us from all airborne viruses, such as the flu. Let’s keep practising these throughout winter to keep ourselves and our communities safe:
- Wear a face mask - it is recommended you wear face masks when visiting healthcare services. It’s also strongly encouraged that you wear a mask when on public transport, in taxis, in crowded indoor places, in poorly ventilated spaces, or when it is hard to physically distance from other people.
- Maintain good hand hygiene by washing and drying your hands thoroughly or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
- Sneeze or cough into your elbow or a tissue. Avoid touching your face, dispose of tissues in a waste bin and wash or sanitise your hands. This will prevent the risk of spreading COVID-19 and other viruses such as colds or flu.
- Develop a winter plan for your whānau so family members know what to do if people become unwell. Familiarise yourself with what is expected of you by your employer if you become sick yourself.
- Get your Winter Wellness Kit together: this might include painkillers, a thermometer, tissues, cold and flu medications, enough food and household items for a few days, and a good stock of the regular medicines you or your whanau will need.
Rest up at home if you are sick, and take a COVID-19 test
The symptoms of flu can be the same as, or similar to, the symptoms of COVID-19. Both are highly contagious so if you feel sick, stay home and take a COVID-19 test. Read about COVID-19 testing.
People with COVID-19 are recommended to stay home and self-isolate for at least 5 days, even if you only have minor symptoms. This includes if you have had COVID-19 before.
Day 0 is the day your symptoms started or when you tested positive, whichever comes first.
As healthcare workers have a unique role and therefore a unique responsibility when considering their return to work following a COVID-19 infection or being a household contact of someone with COVID-19, specific guidance has been developed for them. See COVID-19 return to work guidance for healthcare workers.
If someone you live with in your home gets sick, it’s a good idea for them to stay in one room or area until they are well. Wear a mask if you need to care for them, and if possible, get them to wear a mask while they are unwell. Regularly ventilate or air your home by opening windows and doors. Be sure to wipe clean any surfaces around the house that are frequently touched such as door handles, benchtops, and tables.
There are medicines to treat COVID-19. These medicines are a 5-day course of tablets that can be taken at home, to help manage the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.
They are prescribed to people with COVID-19, who are at a higher risk of becoming significantly unwell. They must be taken within 5 days of a person first becoming unwell with COVID-19.
If you are Māori or Pacific, have complex health needs, are over 65, unvaccinated or have a disability, please speak to your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or health practitioner about whether these medicines are suitable for you.
If you are not enrolled with a doctor, a clinical assessment will be carried out by the nearest COVID-19 Care Coordination Hub.
If your flu or COVID-19 symptoms get worse or you are concerned about someone you care for, seek help. Call Healthline on 0800 611 116. It’s free and you can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Vaccination saves lives
Having an illness does not provide the same level of immunity as getting vaccinated.
To keep your immunity levels high, stay up to date with your vaccinations — including boosters. This will lower your chances of getting very sick from winter illnesses.
Getting a flu vaccine is the best defence from the flu this winter. It is available now and is free for those most likely to get very sick.
Make sure you have all doses of the COVID-19 vaccine – it will protect you from the worst effects of the virus.
For more information on immunising your child visit www.immunise.health.nz
Choose well – get the right healthcare for your needs
Getting sick over winter is common and can often be managed safely at home. For symptoms that might need a bit more care, options are available.
Medical advice online
For helpful medical advice online, the Healthify He Puna Waiora website has easy-to-read information on a wide range of health conditions, including:
- how to recognise symptoms
- prevention tips
- self-care tips
- treatment tips.
Visit Healthify He Puna Waiora
You can phone Healthline on 0800 611 116 at any time to talk to a health professional for free.
Nurses, paramedics and doctors are available with advice and information on what to do next.
Healthline has interpreters available for non-English speakers.
The disability helpline is also available for free on 0800 11 12 13 or text #8988 and can be accessed by using the NZ Relay Service.
Your local pharmacist is a registered health professional who can offer health advice on a range of health conditions and what kinds of medicine you might need. They may also provide some vaccinations and free health checks.
Your GP, family doctor or medical centre
Appointments can usually be made in person or virtually (via phone or online meeting).
For things like:
- feeling unwell
- all vaccinations
- long term care
- ear pain
- sore belly
- bad cuts
- sprains and strains
- fevers and rashes.
Accident urgent and after-hours care centres
For things like:
- feeling sick and you need help quickly
- bad cuts
- bad bites
- bad sprains.
Some general practices have extended opening hours. There are also Urgent Care Centres across all of our districts.
District urgent care centres
Emergency Department and Ambulance
Call 111 in an emergency.
For things like:
- heavy bleeding
- broken bones
- bad burns
- chest pain
- severe pain
- difficulty breathing.
The Emergency Department should only be used for critical or life-threatening situations.
If you cannot travel to the Emergency Department yourself, you should dial 111 and ask for an ambulance.
Whooping cough, flu and respiratory illness in young children
Respiratory (breathing) illnesses in children have increased this winter. Flu and whooping cough are highly infectious and can quickly make babies very sick.
If your child has any symptoms and breathing difficulties or has had a cough for two weeks or more, seek medical care immediately from your doctor or call Healthline anytime on 0800 611 116 for free health advice and information.
Symptoms include fever, cough (can turn into a coughing attack, with vomiting and sometimes a whooping sound) and a runny nose.
Keep your child at home and do not visit young babies if they are sick or awaiting whooping cough test results.
Look after your mental wellbeing
The change of seasons can also be hard on our mental health.
There are some simple things you can do every day to support your mental wellbeing:
- Stay connected with friends and whānau.
- Stick to a schedule or routine as best you can.
- Move your body daily.
- Get outside and spend time in nature.
- Limit your time online and the amount of news you follow.
- Notice and appreciate small moments of joy.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs, as these can make things worse.
Go well resources, including translations
Community Pharmacy Minor Health Conditions Service
Local community Pharmacists can offer trusted advice, medicine, and referrals for minor health conditions over winter.
Minor health conditions can be managed with advice, self-care and in some cases, medicines provided by your pharmacist. If you need further healthcare, they can recommend the best place for you to go for your condition. Proper management can prevent more serious conditions from developing or prevent further costly treatment.
You are eligible for free advice and if needed, medicine, if you are:
- Children aged under 14 years and whānau who present similar symptoms*
- A community service card holder
*For example, if the pharmacist gives your child medicine and you or siblings also have symptoms, they may give medicine to everyone.
The following health conditions are included in this service:
- Acute diarrhea
- Eye inflammation and infections
- Head lice
- Pain and fever
- Minor skin infections
The service will be available through participating community pharmacies in:
- Te Tai Tokerau (Northland)
- Counties Manukau
- Bay of Plenty
- Wellington (including Porirua and Kapiti Coast) and Hutt Valley
Visit Healthpoint.co.nz/pharmacy to find a list of participating pharmacies.
The service runs from Monday 12 June to Saturday 30 September in specific parts of the motu.