September 25, 2022

First with the Alderney News

How to reduce your risk of catching Covid-19 this Autumn and Winter

6 min read

By Dr Sally Simmons, Clinical Director, Island Medical Centre

Medical academics are warning that the UK could face a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, which could be even worse than already experienced in the last four months.

If Covid-19 and seasonal flu develop at the same time, we could potentially see both diseases spreading rapidly, causing a higher increase in death rates and serious illness. We could see a number of cases on the island and we need to prepare for this now, while we can.

One of the main reasons we reduced our Covid-19 risk on Alderney, is by our early lockdown; reduced flights; restricted or no visiting at the hospital and the Care Homes; repeated messages about staying at home; shielding; self-isolating; social distancing and regular hand washing. Pretty much everyone followed the advice which showed we were all helping to keep ourselves safe.

However, if we do start to see cases here, we will have to return to this lock down again if necessary, although isolating, contact tracing and testing is still our active method of managing the disease if someone does test positive.

What can we do to reduce our risk?

There are several things we can all do, starting right now, even though it is high Summer. We already know from global data that taking some form of regular exercise is beneficial in mitigating risk. People living with obesity are at a much higher risk of catching (and possibly spreading) Covid, so losing weight and keeping it off is a good starting point.

A population cohort study called Open SAFELY which is about to be published, showed that people who had a BMI of 25-29 (overweight) had a 44% increased relative risk of critical illness compared with those of a normal weight. What is more concerning, is that the relative risk of dying in the obese category (BMI 30-34) was 27%, doubling in the more obese category (BMI over 40). Other studies from around the world have confirmed these findings.

Long term health problems

We also know that people with long term health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD/emphysema), cancer, depression and other mental health problems, chronic fatigue as well as other conditions requiring numerous medications are at higher risk. Many of these people have been shielding for several months and their lives will be so much harder if they must do this all over again.

Nutritional changes

Nutrition plays an important part in keeping fit and healthy. Jane Durston comments that “now is a good time to review and upgrade your nutrition to make sure you are in good shape for Winter. Whatever point you are starting from, start slowly and make one or two changes. Stick with that for a couple of weeks before making more changes.

We are building good lifestyle habits here, not engaging in a “diet” that lasts a few weeks; changing how we think about food is often the most important part. Start by being honest about how much processed food you eat; it is not about being self-critical or judgmental, so do not beat yourself up. Just acknowledge where you are and commit to move on.

Then replace processed food with a healthy alternative. Concentrate on increasing the amount of vegetables you eat. Again, start slowly; if you currently eat three portions of veg a day, increase it to four for a week and let your gut get used to it. The following week add another portion, so you are up to five a day. The more veg and fruit we eat, the more nutrition you get, but eat more veg than fruit. Fresh, good quality fruit and veg are always better but do not worry if using tinned or frozen.

To support your immune system, aim to eat two portions of oily fish a week such as salmon, tuna or mackerel. Fresh is best but tinned is fine too. This also helps to increase your Vitamin D intake. The best way to get Vitamin D is to get out in the sun between March and September for twenty minutes without sun cream on, so early in the day is best.

If you cannot get out in the sun, then take a supplement such as Quest Super 1 a day which is a multivitamin supplement. Finally, it is always a good idea to have a small portion of nuts and seeds each day as this will help with healthy fats and give you valuable trace elements like magnesium and selenium.”

The British Medical Journal have reported that scientists are already seeing some evidence that Vitamin D is an interesting candidate both as a potential tool in Covid-19 prevention and as an adjunct to other therapies for people who already have the disease.

We know that darker skinned people are also at higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency as well as having a much higher incidence of Covid-19 than white or fair skinned people. 63% of healthcare workers who died from Covid-19 were from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background.

Annual flu and Covid-19

The annual flu vaccination will still be offered to everyone who requires it, with those over 65, pregnant women, young children, those with long term conditions, health care workers and so on, entitled to it free of charge. There may be potential supply problems with getting this year’s vaccine which is another reason to start protecting your health earlier than usual. The IMC will let you know when they are available.

In order to protect those who cannot have vaccinations, it is more important than ever to make sure all your jabs are up to date, not just the flu jab. This is especially important for children and pregnant women. Managing cases of flu together with a possible second wave of Covid 19 would put extreme pressure on our health and hospital resources.

I would like to reassure people who are concerned by this article that it is not all doom and gloom out there. You may want to hide away in order to keep safe and that is understandable.

We do know that many people have suffered from deteriorating mental health problems while shielding and isolating, so please let us know at the surgery if you are shielding so we can make sure you are ok. We must balance the economy of the island, (particularly those who must go out to work), with the health of islanders.

It is not easy to do this but if we all take the opportunity now to get ourselves as healthy as possible in the coming months, we may be able to better protect our more vulnerable from these diseases.

Dr Sally Simmons is the Island’s medical lead on the team tackling Covid -19

Sometimes it is difficult to know where to start, but if you would like help in reducing your weight, taking more exercise, getting hold of a quality multivitamin product, managing your mental health, diabetes, blood pressure, COPD or asthma, please contact us at the IMC and we will sign post you to the best practitioner to help you. If you are new to the island, please also register at the Surgery.

While we have no confirmed cases of Covid-19, this is a good opportunity for us to start preparing for the Autumn and Winter flu season. The following is a list of practitioners who will be happy to help:

Alderney Wellbeing – contact the IMC 822077

Alderney Serenity – Janine Page via FaceBook

Island Medical Centre – 822077

Jane Durston – Life coach and Nutritionist

Julia Hetherington – Walking for Health 822034

Mignot Memorial Hospital – 822822

MIND – Lisa Millan 07781 140886

Boardman’s Pharmacy 822126

Charmaine Johnson Lighthouse Physiotherapy

Lynne Roscrow

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