There's a definite chill in the air now. It's dark when I head to work and nearly dark when I get back home. "Winter is coming" as they say in Game of Thrones (a hit TV series for those still to discover it)- and with it a load of potentially unhealthy things.
If the arrival of coughs, colds and flu wasn't disheartening enough, the short gloomy days are setting off my Seasonal Affective Disorder.
But the last few winters turned out to be not that bad. We got through the record frost a couple of years ago and the floods last time, and the growing success of the influenza immunisation campaign seems to have prevented a major epidemic.
I am optimistic that we will cope with winter pressures but I don't take it for granted. Winter affects our personal health and wellbeing in different ways and we must support each other. Some of us will speed through winter like a downhill ski racer but for others it will be more like a beginner doing slalom. We must remember winter is a team event and we need to help each other to the springtime finish line.
Although I've faced a fair few winters - not saying exactly how many! – I’m still don't quite get the flu vaccine free. When it comes to influenza in theory I'm one of those people who's ‘allowed’ to acquire it: meaning I'm fit and healthy. But it doesn't always feel like that and it’s hard to see two weeks of high fever, myalgia, nausea and headache as a rewarding reflection for a youthful healthy life style. And I certainly would wish to pass the flu on and put anyone else through it.
I used to get my flu jab when I was pregnant and when the children were at nursery. As I grew older I stopped having it on the basis I don't have heart disease or some other long term condition. Having grown a little older still, but wiser, I appreciate more the wider prevention significance of having the jab and my responsibility as a nurse to lead by example and help stop flu spreading to those I care for or vulnerable groups I might come into contact with.
It is common sense that to manage and reduce winter pressures on us all then we all need to be fighting fit. The impact of flu and infection can affect those we support and care for, often the most vulnerable and we all can play our part to ensure everyone is looked after.
‘Winter is coming’ and we need to look after ourselves and each other to safely stand together until the Spring.
Helen Kirk, Associate Lead Nurse, Workforce, Nursing and Midwifery Revalidation Lead, Public Health England