HEALTH bosses are encourage Somerset residents to get ready for winter by taking measures to ensure they stay safe.

Cold weather is a major risk factor for falls and traffic accidents and can also aggravate existing health conditions, particularly respiratory disorders.

Dr Ed Ford, chairman of Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, said it is important to look after yourself and others by making preparations now.

He said: "Winter can be an especially difficult time for people, especially those living with long-term conditions, the elderly and people living with disabilities. It is therefore important that those who are able to help those who are less capable do so.

"There are some simple things we can all do to help everyone stay well this winter.

"For example, make sure your elderly or vulnerable friends and relatives are keeping their home warm, have enough food in the house and are wearing appropriate clothing for the weather.

"For those living alone, the risk is higher still. If you have an elderly neighbour who lives alone, please check in on them every now and then to make sure they are OK.

"At the first sign of a winter illness, whether it be a cough, cold or a sore throat, don’t suffer in silence – make sure you go to your local pharmacist for advice. If they think you need to see a nurse or doctor, they’ll tell you.

"The easiest way to make sure you stay well this winter is by having the flu jab, which is free to everyone who meets the criteria."

You should have the flu jab if you are 65 years old or over, pregnant, have certain medical conditions, are living in long-stay care home or receive a carers allowance or are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill.

Dr Ford added: "Children in primary school, children aged between two and three and children over six months with a long-term health condition are also eligible for the flu jab.

"I’d encourage anyone who meets the criteria to talk to their GP practice or pharmacist for more information about how they can get their free flu jab."

Frontline health and social care workers are also eligible for the flu jab.