Karen Howell, chief executive of Wirral Community Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust, writes for the Globe.

International Infection Prevention Week took place last month and was an opportunity to remind ourselves of the simple steps we can all take to help stop the spread of infection and stay well particularly over the coming winter months.

Our award-winning Infection Prevention and Control Team share some advice for everyone to follow this winter to Prioritise Prevention.

Self-care is for everyone and being active and getting outside is really important to boost our health, remembering to factor in rest and relaxation time and getting plenty of sleep. Connect with others by socialising; including caring and looking out for others such as, checking in on elderly relatives or neighbours to ensure they’re warm and have their essential groceries and prescriptions.

This winter it is expected that respiratory infections including Covid-19 and flu may be circulating at high levels, putting those who are vulnerable at increased risk and increasing pressure on hospitals and other health care services.

Getting your flu and Covid-19 booster vaccinations are safe and effective ways to help protect you, your family and those around you from getting seriously ill and help prevent the spread of these viruses.

Even if you have had your vaccinations, you are advised to take a Covid-19 test if you have Covid-19 symptoms and stay at home and avoid contact with others.

Antibiotics aren't always the answer, and antibiotic resistance remains one of the biggest threats facing us today. So remember, antibiotics do not work for viral infections such as colds and flu, and most coughs and sore throats - take your doctor’s advice on whether you need antibiotics or not.

If you are prescribed antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed, never share them with others and take any unused antibiotics to your pharmacy for safe disposal.

Finally, prevention is better than cure, so prioritise prevention this winter by following these key points:

  • Hand hygiene. Wash your hands more frequently and for at least 20 seconds. Thoroughly sanitise or wash your hands when you get home, before you eat and after coughing or sneezing. Remember to always wash your hands after using the toilet, using soap and water – alcohol hand sanitisers do not kill Norovirus!
  • Catch it, bin it, kill it. Use tissues to catch your cough or sneeze, then dispose of your tissue and clean your hands as soon as possible.
  • Good ventilation. Try to keep a good airflow through your home or place of work which can help remove air that contains any virus particles. Good ventilation has also been linked to health benefits such as better sleep and concentration.

By following these steps you’ll be doing your bit to Prioritise Prevention and reduce the spread of viruses this winter. For more information on Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), visit our website www.wchc.nhs.uk.

If you do feel unwell and need to access a health service, where possible please try NHS 111, your GP or high street pharmacy first.