To find out what to do if you think you have symptoms, please visit Coronavirus symptom checker. Or visit our encyclopaedia page, which has general information and includes a BSL video.

NOTE: For up to date information about Coronavirus (COVID-19) visit the UK Department of Health and Social Care.

12 Steps to a Healthy Christmas


With Christmas fast approaching it can be easy to overlook your own and your families health.  Don't ignore health symptoms, don't leave things to the last minute and don't put off replacing medical items.

Here are 12 steps to ensure you have a healthy and happy Christmas.

Step 1: Check your symptoms

If you or someone you are caring for has symptoms and you are unsure what to do - don't let the symptoms cause you anxiety carry out a self assessment.  The symptom checkers will tell you where you should go for help or give you information on self care if you can look after yourself at home.

Our symptom checkers include: Falls, Chest pain, Breathing Difficulties, Vomiting, Diarrhoea, Cold & Flu and many more.

Click here for an assessment.

Step 2: Get your flu vaccine

It is during the winter months that we are more likely to catch colds and flu. For some, having flu can have a greater effect on their health.  To see if you are eligible to have a flu vaccine click here.

Annual nasal spray flu vaccine will be offered to all children aged two and three years (age on 31st August 2019), plus all children in primary school (reception class to school year 6) as part of the routine NHS childhood vaccination programme.

Think you've got a cold or the flu?  You can find out what to do by using our online Cold & Flu symptom checker. 

Step 3. Stock up

Medication: If you take regular medication, make sure you have enough to see you through the Christmas period. If you don’t, contact your GP practice before they close for Christmas for further advice.

Away for Christmas? If you are spending the festive season away from home, make sure that you pack enough medication. It is also important to find out what health services (including GP out of hours) are available in the area you are visiting.

Oxygen: If you use home oxygen therapy, check that you have enough oxygen supply for the Christmas period. If you are going away make sure you make arrangements for any oxygen that you need. For further information contact your GP.

First Aid Box: Do you have a first aid box to manage minor wounds? Do you know what needs to be in it? For further information, visit our interactive first aid box.

Medicine Cabinet: It’s worth checking that you have enough basic medicines stocked in your home to manage common health problems. Basic medicines can help with common ailments such as coughs, colds, headaches, indigestion, upset stomach and diarrhoea. To find out what medicines should be in your medicine cabinet and what they can be used for, visit our medicine cabinet.

You can buy a number of medicines over the counter at your local pharmacy. Please check the recommended dosage before taking any medicines and do not exceed this dosage. Also ask the pharmacist for advice before using more than one medicine at a time.

Step 4: List Useful Contact Details

To save you searching for numbers, it’s worth listing all useful contact details, for example your ICE contact (In Case of an Emergency), your dentist, your GP or any other useful local health services, especially if visiting relatives in an area you’re not familiar with.

If you need to contact your GP or dentist, out of hours, just contact your usual GP surgery or Dental practice number and follow the instructions on the messaging service.

If you need to see a GP whilst away outside of Wales (but still in the UK), contact a GP practice in the area and ask to be seen as a temporary patient.

Click here to find pharmacies that are open during the Christmas period, or alternatively contact NHS Direct Wales 0845 46 47 or 111 if available in your area for further information.

There is also a Health, Wellbeing and Support directory on our website, it includes contact details for a number of local and national groups including befriending groups, choirs, alcohol support groups and support for the homeless.

If you are a carer keep some important numbers to hand such as your local authority's crisis team (including out of hours) and manufacture's numbers for equipment you rely on.  More information for carers is available - click here.

Step 5: Stay Safe

Christmas is a time to celebrate with friends and family. To ensure you and your family stay safe:-

  • Check the weather forecast if visiting friends/relatives
  • Prepared for the drive? - To ensure you and your vehicle are prepared for the drive, visit the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents website for winter driving tips and what should keep in your car
  • Check on vulnerable neighbours and friends during the winter period.
  • Personal Safety - When you are out keep your drink with you at all times, avoid walking home on your own and keep your personal belongings close to you at all times.
  • Be responsible with your alcohol intake – you can check how many units are in your drinks by using the alcohol units calculator
  • Never leave your drink unattended - unless it’s with someone that you trust. For further information please read drink spiking
  • Never Drink and Drive. By drinking and driving, you risk your life, those of your passengers and others on the road
  • Be aware the morning after. You could be over the legal limit many hours after your last drink, even if it's the 'morning after'. Sleep, coffee and cold showers don't help to sober you up. Time is the only way to get alcohol out of your system. For further information, visit THINK
  • Unprotected sex can lead to a number of STIs/STDs and pregnancy, so remember to stay safe and always use protection. If you need to access emergency contraception over the holiday period you can use our pharmacy search to find out which pharmacies are open and offer emergency contraception by using the services offered tab.
  • Falls - reduce your risk of falling by wearing well-fitting shoes that are in good condition and support the ankle.  For more tips on preventing falls - click here.

Step 6: Online health advice and information

NHS Direct Wales website  - our mobile friendly website has a wealth of information available at your fingertips anywhere at any time. We have information to help you keep your and your family keep well this Christmas. If you are caring for someone and are worried about their health - the website is a good place to find out what to do.

Our symptom checkers can give you online advice in a matter of minutes about Falls, Chest Pain, Sickness, Colds and much more.  Don't let your symptoms cause you anxiety - follow a symptom checker and it will tell you what to do next.

Our A - Z encyclopaedia is packed full of information on conditions.

Our Local Service Search allows you to search for your nearest Minor Injury Unit, Hospital, Dentist or Pharmacy anywhere in Wales.

We have a Pregnancy Guide available in our Live Well section as well as much more.

Our new Dementia Guide is full of advice if you are worried about yourself or someone you care for.

For many people, asthma is harder to control during winter months due to the changing weather conditions and cold and flu viruses circulating.  For more information on asthma - click here.

Step 7: Keep Active

Safe and enjoyable exercise is essential to a healthy lifestyle. It may be harder to exercise in the colder weather but do try and keep active as much as you can.


Step 8: Keep Warm

As energy bills rise, you may feel reluctant to turn the thermostat up. However, it is important to stay warm. Age UK have some great ideas of how you can keep yourself warm and well this winter:

  • Wear several thin layers, rather than one thick layer. This is because they trap warm air close to the body
  • Go for clothes made from wool, cotton or fleecy fabrics, if possible
  • Draw your curtains, as soon as it gets dark to stop the heat escaping and the draughts coming in
  • Keep any windows and internal doors closed when it’s cold – this will keep heat inside, where you most need it
  • A lot of heat is lost through the head and neck, so if you’re chilly indoors, try wearing a hat and scarf
  • Your body keeps warm by burning food you've eaten, so make sure you have regular hot meals that contain carbohydrates, such as potatoes, pasta, bread and rice. Try porridge with hot milk for breakfast and soups and stews for lunch and dinner.
  • If you’re sitting down, a shawl or blanket will provide extra warmth. You should also try to keep your feet up, because air is cooler at ground level.
  • Wear warm clothes in bed. When it’s really cold, wear thermal underwear, bed socks and even a hat.

Step 9: Food safety

To help protect your family from food poisoning, remember to wash your hands before preparing food and remember to cook your food correctly.

Handy Tips:

  • Wash your hands
  • If you only have one chopping board wash it after using it for cutting raw meat and before cutting ready to eat foods on it.
  • Don’t wash meat before cooking it. Washing doesn’t get rid of harmful germs – only proper cooking will. You also run the risk of splashing germs onto worktops and utensils
  • To check that chicken or meat is cooked properly, when you cut into the deepest part there should be no pinkness left and any juices should run clear
  • Some meat such as steaks and joints of beef can be served rare as long as the outside has been properly cooked and ‘sealed’.

Click here for more information on food safety.


Step 10: Looking after your mental health

Emotional health is about how we think, feel and behave. Having good emotional health is important as it affects all aspects of our daily lives.  Good emotional health is about feeling positive about daily life and work and having good relationships with family and friends. Looking after our emotional health is just as important as looking after our physical health.

Mental health problems might be more common that you think.  One in four of us will be affected by mental illness in any year - which can affect their daily life, relationships or physical health. The winter months can prove challenging for anyone with mental health problems.

If you are experiencing mental health problems and need urgent support Time to Change Wales have information on places you can get help - click here.

Our encyclopaedia has information on mental health and other related conditions.

Step 11: Choose Well

If you are unwell at any time then it is important that you access the right health service to suit your needs. The Choose Well campaign provides you with information on when to contact each health service. Click here to find out which service you should contact or take the Choose Well Challenge

You can also find out how to self-care for common illnesses by reading our caring for yourself page.

GP: If you are in pain or are worried about a condition then make an appointment with your GP before the Christmas holidays. Check your GP opening times over Christmas in case you need to contact them in an emergency.  If you need to contact your GP out of hours or during the weekend - ring your GP surgeries usual number and the answerphone message will give you the details of who to call when they are closed.

Dentist: Visit the dentist if you are experiencing toothache or use our dental symptom checker for further advice and information.

Pharmacy: Order any repeat prescriptions in advance to make sure you have enough over the Christmas period. Some pharmacies will be open for limited periods over the bank holidays, others may not open at all. You can get some emergency prescriptions which will cover you for five days. However, you will only get one if it is a genuine emergency, it is not a controlled drug (e.g. morphine, pethidine, methadone), you go to the pharmacy in person and it is impossible to see GP. Please note – there may be a charge for this. Click here to find pharmacies that are open during the Christmas period.

Choose Pharmacy is an NHS Wales pharmacy service for adults and children living in Wales providing advice and treatment for a range of common ailments without having to make a GP appointment.  To read more about the scheme click here.

Remember if you need any information or are unsure what to do if you are feeling unwell then you can contact NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47 or 111 if available in your area. NHS Direct Wales & 111 are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You should only call 999 for an ambulance if it is for a life threatening emergency.

Step 12:

From all the team at NHS Direct Wales and 111 Wales have a Merry Christmas!!