Professor John Howarth is deputy chief executive at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust and has been a local GP for over 30 years. He shares his top tips for staying healthy this winter.

He said: “Every year we have more deaths and illness in winter than we do in summer. The majority of these extra deaths are avoidable, in fact some countries particularly in Scandinavia do not see a rise of deaths in winter.

“Every winter there are several thousand extra deaths in England caused by influenza, many of these could have been avoided through flu vaccination. It is really important to get a flu jab if you are one of the 25 million people eligible. Flu jabs are for now being offered to all primary school aged children for the first time via a nasal spray but the uptake has not been great. It is important to vaccinate this group as they are the so called ‘super spreaders’.

“Two and three-year-olds are also eligible as are those with underlying health conditions (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, diabetes or heart or kidney disease), pregnant women and older adults (aged 65 and over).

“Cold weather itself brings its own challenges. Getting really chilled is not good for your health – it makes your blood become more sticky and prone to clotting and can raise your blood pressure resulting in an increased risks of stroke and heart attack. A few days after every cold snap we also see a surge in respiratory infections.

“So it is really important to keep warm – it’s not just about comfort. Avoid getting really chilled - wrap up warn when you go out, set your home thermostat to at least 18 degrees and your living room a bit warmer.

“Wear layers of clothing both in and outside the house and good footwear to avoid slips and falls. Make sure you have hot food when it’s really cold outside.

“Check on your neighbour, especially if they are older and living alone. There is an excellent NHS website keepwarmkeepwell which explains the various grants available for better home insulation. Poorly insulated and draughty houses is one of the reasons why we have far more extra winter deaths than places like Sweden or Norway, despite their winters being much colder than ours.

“Most sore throats, coughs and colds are minor and don’t need antibiotics.

“If you are unsure you can ring the 24/7 NHS helpline on 111.” and they can advise you whether you need to see a doctor or not. Keep A&E for accidents and emergencies and GP appointments for when you really need them. Our pharmacies are a great resource and can offer advice and remedies."