WINTER is coming...and while we can avoid the deadly zombies and ice-fire-breathing dragons of the Game of Thrones world which inspired this now famous phrase – we should all still be prepared!

It’s hard not to have missed the national campaign encouraging those who need it, from children to the elderly, to have the flu jab.

Even if you are not on the hit list for the vaccine, in the coming months of cold and wet weather there is plenty that can do done to take care of yourself and your loved ones.

It does not have to be a massive task, but a small change from keeping active to keeping warm.

Dr Wirin Bhatiani is a GP who has worked in Bolton for more than 30 years and is chairman of the Bolton NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

He said: “It is the little things that make a big difference.

“Even putting the heating up just a little bit can make a significant difference and there is always help available for anyone struggling either financially, with their health or feeling isolated.

“Other changes including taking care of yourself when the weather deteriorates and road conditions and footpaths conditions.

“That’s when travelling can become difficult and we get a high increase in the number of falls. That’s why it is so important to make sure you wear appropriate footwear and keep yourself safe. There are even grippers available to buy for over boots which also make a massive difference.”

The NHS recently warned that this winter could be a bad one in terms of flu, so those in at-risk groups are being urged to get the jab.

In Bolton around 27,600 children have been invited for their free nasal flu vaccine, including those aged two to three.

However, anyone can enquire and pay for a flu jab, and it is also free on the NHS for eligible groups, including over-65s, pregnant women and those with certain long-term medical conditions.

Unfortunately most of us will get a cough, cold or sore throat this winter but they can be fought quite easily.

Simple steps include getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water and painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen – or try a squeeze of half a lemon into a mug, add boiling water and a teaspoon of honey as a homemade remedy to feeling better!

See a GP if a sore throat lasts more than a week or cough persists for three weeks, however in the meantime Bolton pharmacies are always onhand with expert advice.

Also play a part in stopping virus spreading by washing hands and using and disposing of tissues properly.

Another obvious tip is keeping warm with layers, blocking up drafts with good insulation and warm drinks – but while keeping babies cosy at night try to avoid overheating by keeping temperatures between 16 to 20 degrees celcius.

Gloomy weather can also see people overloading on stodgy and sugary food but try and stick to healthy choices.

Protein, healthy fats and plenty of fruit and vegetables can keep you feeling full and energised and Vitamin D can also help keep spirits high – which can be found in food like wholegrains, oily fish and eggs.

Also watch your alcohol intake – don’t over do it, drink with food and always balance it with plenty of water or soft drinks.

While a touch of winter blues is quite common, full-blown seasonal affective disorder (SAD - a recognised clinical depression that occurs as a response to less light exposure during wintertime) is relatively rare and can be majorly debilitating.

For those who have it, or even don’t suffer as much – expertise advise exercise be it a run to a stroll.

Dr Balu Pitchiah, SAD specialist and consultant psychiatrist at The London Psychiatry Centre explains: “It can be very difficult for people to get out and go for walks when it’s dark in the mornings and early in the evenings, but it’s very important to keep on with the activity you usually do during summer months. Physical activity does really help

“Being able to exercise outside can help increase sunlight exposure, but it has plenty of other benefits, so it’s worth a try!”

“If the decrease in daylight hours affects someone’s mood, it’s important to make the most of them and get outside as much as possible.

“Whether it’s first thing in the morning or fitting it into a lunch break, wrap up warm and go for a walk.”

And there is also one major bit of advise from out experts in Bolton – take care of each other!

Dr Bhatiani adds: “A lot problems come through isolation, we must make sure we look out for our neighbours and anyone who we know is vulnerable who live around us.

“One of the key issues those who feel down or depressed are usually isolated and lack confidence, but if we can look out for them and show some care and support, it will make a big difference.”