NHS officials in Devon are appealing for residents to take extra care in the coming days as heavy rain and gale-force winds are expected to batter the UK.

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The Exeter-based Met Office has also issued several weather warnings – including yellow ones for rain and wind in Sidmouth.

Colder weather will also lead to icy roads, and drivers are being urged to take extra care when travelling, and to look in on elderly neighbours and residents who could suffer from the chill.

Dr Rob Turner, a GP in Topsham, said: “With the expected wet and cold weather expected over the next few days we would ask anyone, especially the frail and the elderly, to be extra careful when going outside.

“Every year hospital emergency departments such as at the RD&E Hospital see an increase in the number of people who have slipped, tripped or fallen because of the bad weather. People should take extra care.”

The cold weather advice ties in with a newly launched eight-week awareness campaign from NHS England to help people stay well longer.

The ‘Earlier, the Better campaign’ aims to encourage people to make greater use of the self-care information about minor ailments and illnesses on the NHS Choices website, as well as more use of the services available in community pharmacies.

Here are simple steps to help you keep warm this winter:

• Ensuring that you or vulnerable people you know have enough food and medicines in stock, and check that they are able to keep themselves warm.

• Have regular hot drinks and at least one hot meal a day – if possible, eating regularly helps to keep energy levels up during winter. Keep as active indoors as possible.

• Wear several light layers of warm clothes, and if you’re going outside wear boots, hats, gloves and scarves. Remember, the roads and pavements may be slippery. Take a mobile phone with you.

• If you are unable to heat up your entire home, keep one room and one bedroom warm between 18- 21 degrees centigrade - and avoid going outside if possible.

• Keep an eye on immediate neighbours or friends, particularly if they live alone.

• If the cold snap sets in you should start thinking about requesting any repeat prescriptions in good time, especially if snow is forecast.

• Make sure you have some over-the-counter remedies for complaints such as headaches, colds or flu, and make sure you have remedies for children, painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (or liquid paracetamol/ibuprofen for children) and anti-diarrhoeal medicines.

• Party-goers should always consider wearing warm clothing when out on the town, particularly during cold weather. They should also wear sensible footwear to minimise the risk of slipping on icy pavements.

For further advice call the NHS 111 number, visit the NHS Choices website and make sure to check the latest weather update on the Met Office website.

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