Staying healthy this winter

With COVID-19 and winter upon us, it is important to follow the current government guidelines for people with blood cancers. Our Nurse Advisor, Fiona, has written this article to advise you on how you can best care for yourself this winter.

In order to protect against coronavirus, the government advises everybody to:

  • Wash hands – wash your hands regularly with soap and water
  • Cover face – wear a face covering in enclosed spaces
  • Make space – keep at least 2 metres apart

It is also worth remembering that other common winter illnesses will still be circulating, so along with the current government general recommendations Here are some general tips on staying healthy this winter:

Common Winter Illnesses

Coronavirus is obviously the most prevalent virus at the moment, but these other common illnesses will still be circulating:

Colds occur all year round, but they are more prevalent in the winter months.

Flu can be a major killer of vulnerable people. It can also lead to other serious infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

Sore throats are common in winter and are almost always caused by viral infections.

Asthma is often worse during winter. Cold is a major trigger of asthma symptoms, such as wheezing and shortness of breath.

Norovirus is known as the winter vomiting bug. It is highly contagious and is transmitted by contact with contaminated surfaces, an infected person or consumption of contaminated food or water. It can occur all year round but it is more common in the winter.


How to protect yourself this winter

Flu Vaccine

If you have reduced immunity, it is recommended that you have the flu vaccine. It is the best way to protect against flu and other infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

You can find out more about the flu vaccine in our blog by clicking here.

Hand washing

You can help prevent infections by washing your hands regularly. Handwashing destroys bugs that you may have picked up from surfaces touched by other people, such as light switches and door handles. It is also important to keep the house and any household items such as cups, glasses and towels clean, especially if someone in your house is ill. If you get a cold, use disposable tissues and throw them away after each use.

Eat more fruit and veg

When it’s cold and dark outside, it can be tempting to fill up on unhealthy comfort food. However, it’s important to ensure you still have a healthy diet and include five portions of fruit and veg a day.


Regular exercise helps to control your weight and boosts your immune system. It also has psychological benefits and can help reduce tiredness.


Getting enough undisturbed sleep is vital for staying healthy in the winter months. Aim for about eight hours of sleep a night and try to go to bed and get up about the same time every day.


As the days get shorter, your sleep and waking cycles may become disrupted. The lack of sun means your brain produces more of a hormone called melatonin, which makes you sleepy. Open your blinds or curtains as soon as you can to let more sunlight into your home, and get outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible.

Vitamin D

It is important to take vitamin D as you may have been indoors more than usual this year because of coronavirus. Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. From about late March/early April to the end of September, most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight. The Department of Health and Social Care recommends that adults should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter. More information can be found here.


Stress can contribute to feeling unwell. There is no easy cure for stress, but there are simple things you can do to help reduce it. Many people find adding meditation, yoga, breathing exercises or mindfulness techniques into their day helps to calm them down and feel more relaxed.

Stop smoking

Smokers have an increased risk of developing pneumonia, as well as other chest infections – and so do children whose parents smoke.

If you have a blood cancer

If you have leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma, you may be more vulnerable to infections, especially in the winter months.

Cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy are more vulnerable to infections as their white blood cell count is low.

If you are neutropenic (low white cell count) and you feel unwell with a fever, it is important that you seek help straight away without delay.

You can find out more about neutropenia and the neutropenic diet when you click here.

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