Indoor air pollution
Dr Rima Vaid, GP and Newham Clinical Director, NHS North East London ICB explains the importance of self-care in terms of prevention and managing health conditions. Self-care includes managing your sleep, diet, exercise and mental well-being. You can also help us help you to manage long term conditions by seeing the relevant clinical and attending appointments.
Click here to watch a video by Dr Vaid explaining the importance of self care
Indoor air pollution
Indoor air pollution can be created by things like:
- Cooking fumes
- Steam from cooking
- Dust and dust mites
Poor indoor air quality has been linked to diseases like asthma, COPD and lung cancer, and can exacerbate symptoms for those who already suffer from these. Here are our top tips for keeping the air quality inside your home good:
- Ventilation! Even in colder weather, it is very important that you keep your home well-ventilated by opening a window to circulate fresh air, and making use of extractor fans in your kitchen and bathroom to extract moisture from the air and keep your home dry
- If you live with someone who smokes, ask them to do so outside away from the home and to remove outer layers of clothing i.e. their jacket before coming back in, as cigarette smoke particles linger on clothing
- If your home is particularly dusty or damp, it may be worth investing in an air purifier or a dehumidifier if possible
- Make sure to open a window if possible while you are cleaning using bleach-based products
- Wash your bedding once a week on a warm wash to remove dust mites
Please click the link below for more information:
Support for Tower Hamlets residents living in privately rented accommodation, who are struggling to get environmental repairs to the property: 0207 364 5000
Damp and mould
Damp and mould occurs in homes when there is excess moisture indoors. Living in a damp environment can lead to health issues such as respiratory infections, allergies, asthma and a weakened immune system.
It can be caused by things like:
- Leaking pipes
- Rising damp in basements
- Damage to the foundations of the home, such as the roof or around the window frames
- A lack of proper ventilation in the home
All of the above can become worse in the winter months when the weather becomes colder and we keep our windows closed. Steps you can take to keep your home as dry as possible include:
- Turning the heating on, even if this is for a short while each day to raise the temperature of the air and the cold surfaces of your home
- Keeping the home well-ventilated by opening windows to encourage air flow
- Turning on your extractor fan every time you cook on your stove or take a shower or a bath
- Cover pans when cooking
- Drying your clothes outside if possible, on a balcony or in a garden
- Avoiding putting wet clothes on a hot radiator, as water from your clothes will evaporate more quickly and turn into moisture in the air
- Wiping down the windows and sills every morning, especially during cold, wet weather
- If possible, making sure your home is adequately insulated
If you have ongoing and pervasive issues with damp and mould despite efforts to keep your home dry, it is important to have this looked at by a professional. If you live in social housing, contact your housing association as soon as possible to report the problem.
Please click the links below for more information:
Tower Hamlets council - Damp and mould
Shelter - Damp and mould advice
NHS - Causes of damp and mould
Bedbugs (information from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bedbugs/)
Bedbugs are little insects that like to hide and live in our homes, most commonly in mattresses and bedding, in clothing, on bed frames and other furniture, and behind loose fixtures such as hanging frames and loose wallpaper.
You may have bedbugs in your home if you start to notice any of the following:
- Raised and itchy bites on exposed areas of the skin
- Small spots of blood on your bedding from the bites or from a squashed bedbug
- Small brown spots on your bedding or furniture (bedbug poo)
Bedbug bites can be treated with:
- Antihistamines, which may help with the itchiness
- Avoiding scratching the bites
- Keeping the skin clean and dry
- Putting something cool against the affected skin such as a clean, damp cloth
- Mild steroid cream which can be bought from your local pharmacy
- Getting rid of the bedbugs!
If you discover you have bedbugs in the home, here are the steps to take to get rid of them:
- Contact your local council or a private pest control service
- Put affected clothes and bedding in a plastic bag and put this in the freezer for 3 or 4 days
- Wash the affected clothes and bedding
- Clean and vaccum your home regularly
- Remove clutter around your bed
You can avoid having bedbugs in your home by:
- Keeping your home free from clutter
- Inspecting second hand furniture carefully for signs of bedbugs before bringing it into your home
- Do not take luggage or clothing into your home if you have come from somewhere where you know there were bedbugs
Reducing your risk of falls in the home
As we age, our chances of falling get higher, as do our chances of becoming seriously injured from a fall. Some falls may occur as a result of dizziness or weakness, but often they are caused by hazards in the home. Here are some steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of falls in the home:
- Ensure there are no loose or frayed carpets
- Make sure mats and rugs are non-slip or are secured to the flooring
- Remove clutter from the home environment, make sure there are clear paths along the floor for you to walk around
- Make sure there are no trailing wires from electronics
- Make sure the room you are entering is well-lit
- Ensure there are secure handrails on your stairs
- Keep frequently-used objects (e.g. pots and pain in the kitchen) in a place that is easy to reach
- Clean up spills on the floor immediately to avoid slipping on them later
- Leave a light on in the bathroom or hall at night if you frequently wake to use the bathroom
- Make sure there are no broken or uneven steps leading to your front door
If you are unsteady on your feet and think you might benefit from adjustments such as grab rails, perching stools or adjustments to your bedroom or bathroom to reduce your risk of falling, please contact the practice to speak to a clinician who will assess your needs and refer to the local occupational therapy team or falls service if appropriate.
Social prescribing service
Our lovely Tower Hamlets social prescribing team is there to support all residents of Tower Hamlets with social matters such as financial problems, housing problems, employment support and exercise and healthy eating, to name a few!
Please ask your GP or practice nurse if you would like to be referred to a social prescriber for help finding support locally.
Superficial scrapes and grazes can be easily managed at home. Here are some tips to promote quick healing:
- Thoroughly clean the wound with clear water and gauze or a clean flannel, making sure to remove any grit or dirt that you can see.
- Gently pat the area dry and apply a simple dressing or plaster that you can find in your local pharmacy or supermarket.
- The wound may leak or bleed for the first couple of days – don’t worry, this is normal! To prevent bacteria getting in to your wound, try not to change the dressing too often. Unless the plaster is very wet, try to leave your dressing in place (keeping it clean and dry) for at least 2 days at a time.
- Ensure that you thoroughly clean your wound each time you change the dressing. It is often not enough to run water over the wound, it must be wiped to remove any dried blood or exudate, or any dead tissue.
- Take regular pain relief e.g. paracetamol to manage pain, if needed.
MYTH: it is a myth that it is better to “leave wounds to air out”. Moist environments facilitate quicker wound healing. By covering your wound with a sterile dressing, you are promoting moist wound healing and lessening the risk of infection.
Most cuts can be managed at home. Bleeding can be stopped by applying strong pressure onto the cut and holding the affected part of your body above the height of your heart.
If you suspect your wound is very deep because it is either bleeding profusely and not stopping with lots of pressure applied to the wound, or if you can see any underlying structures (e.g. bone, tendon, fat), you must go to A&E as your wound may need to be closed with stitches or special glue.
If your cut is not too deep, you can look after this at home by following the same instructions for grazes (above).
See the link below for advice from St John’s Ambulance on first aid for cuts and scrapes:
Burns and Scalds
Click the link below for some simple first aid tips when dealing with burns and scalds:
You must go to A&E immediately if you know or suspect that you have been burnt by a chemical agent e.g. acid or household cleaning products. If possible, keep rinsing the affected area of skin under water until you get there.
It is very common for burns and scalds to blister. If this happens, do not pop the blister, it will eventually drain itself. Instead, keep the wound dressed with a plaster or a bandage if the burn is larger. If the blister does pop, it may reveal a wound underneath which you will need to keep clean and apply a dressing to in order to prevent infection.
Contact your practice nurse if you feel that your wound caused by a burn is healing very slowly, getting worse or if you suspect it may have become infected. See the end of this guide to find out more about wound infection.
If they are not cleaned and dressed properly, it is possible for wounds to become infected. Here are some signs of infection to look out for. If you suspect that your wound has become infected, please contact reception to speak to a practice nurse or a GP, as you may require antibiotics and a special dressing.
- Heat – does the skin around your wound feel hot to touch compared to the rest of your skin?
- Redness – is the skin surrounding your wound suddenly looking very red?
- Pain – has the wound suddenly become a lot more painful?
- Smell – does your wound have a bad odour?
- Colour – has your wound bed changed colour? Infected wound beds can often turn a dark, purulent colour or sometimes have a green tinge.
- Exudate – is you wound suddenly leaking a lot more than it was before? Have you noticed any pus coming from the wound?
- Blood – has your wound suddenly started bleeding?
- Self – are you feeling well in yourself? A high temperature (fever) is often a sign of infection.
Do not ignore any of these signs, wound infection can be serious.
Local services that might be able to help
Find a local pharmacy
Practice policy on not prescribing diazepam for flying phobia
We are often asked to prescribe sedative drugs, such as diazepam (Valium), for fear of flying. We have agreed a practice policy that we will no longer prescribe these drugs for fear of flying. There are a number of good reasons why prescribing of drugs such as diazepam is not safe or recommended:-
Diazepam and similar drugs are not recommended for treatment of phobias because other treatments are safer and more effective.
Diazepam is a sedative, which means it makes you sleepy and slows reaction times. If there is an emergency during the flight it may affect your ability to concentrate, follow instructions and react to the situation. This could have serious safety consequences for you and others. The sedative effects of these drugs can affect breathing and cause low oxygen levels, which could be life threatening, especially with the lower circulating oxygen levels on an aeroplane, in people with breathing problems or when combined with alcohol.
Sedative drugs can make you fall asleep, however this is not a natural sleep. This means you won’t move around as much as during natural sleep and this can increase your risk of developing a blood clot (DVT) in your leg or lung. Blood clots are dangerous and can be fatal. This risk is greater if your flight is longer than four hours.
Whilst most people find medicines such as diazepam sedating, a small number of people become agitated, aggressive or confused. These medicines can also cause disinhibition and lead to abnormal behaviours. This could impact on your safety as well as that of other passengers.
Diazepam and similar drugs are illegal or controlled drugs in some countries so they may be confiscated or you may be subject to legal proceedings.
Diazepam stays in your system for quite a while. If your job requires you to submit to random drug testing you may fail this test if you have taken diazepam.
We recognise that fear of flying can be very difficult to manage and we don’t underestimate the impact it can have on your life. We recommend tackling this properly by using self-help resources or considering one of the ‘Fear of Flying’ course run by many airlines. We do not recommend any specific course but you may find the following links useful.
Self help options:
Self-help - Phobias - NHS (www.nhs.uk)
Information on common health problems
Self-management tool for patients
Long term conditions
Respiratory Conditions (COPD)
Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions affect the joints, bones and muscles, and also include rarer autoimmune diseases and back pain. Download the Rehab Me app and visit the Bob and Brad YouTube Channel to learn about how you can relieve your pain.
Weight loss services
The new NHS Digital Weight Management Programme supports adults living with obesity, who also have either diabetes or high blood pressure or both, to improve their health and manage their weight.
Obesity is a serious health concern which increases the risk of many other health conditions, for example type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, joint problems, and some cancers.
The NHS Digital Weight Management Programme is a 12-week lifestyle and behavioural intervention that people can access online via their smartphone or computer. It can be hard to keep healthy, but with support from the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme you can take control of your weight and significantly reduce further health risks.
- Speak to your GP practice to find out more about the programme or visit our website: https://www.england.nhs.uk/digital-weight-management/
You do not have to wait for an emergency situation to find help. If domestic abuse is happening to you, it's important to tell someone and remember you're not alone.