One of the most important things that a parent can do for their child is to make sure that they have all their routine childhood vaccinations. It’s the most effective way of keeping them protected against infectious diseases.
Ideally, kids should have their jabs at the right age to protect them as early as possible and minimise the risk of infection.
Here’s a checklist of the vaccines that are routinely offered to everyone in the UK for free on the NHS, and the age at which you should ideally have them.
- Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib, a bacterial infection that can cause severe pneumonia or meningitis in young children) given as a 5-in-1 single jab known as DTaP/IPV/Hib
- Pneumococcal infection
- 5-in-1, second dose (DTaP/IPV/Hib)
- Meningitis C
- 5-in-1, third dose (DTaP/IPV/Hib)
- Pneumococcal infection, second dose
- Meningitis C, second dose
Between 12 and 13 months:
- Meningitis C, third dose
- Hib, fourth dose (Hib/MenC given as a single jab)
- MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), given as a single jab
- Pneumococcal infection, third dose
3 years and 4 months, or soon after:
- MMR second jab
- Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio (DtaP/IPV), given as a 4-in-1 pre-school booster
Around 12-13 years:
- Cervical cancer (HPV) vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer (girls only): three jabs given within six months
Around 13-18 years:
- Diphtheria, tetanus and polio booster (Td/IPV), given as a single jab
65 and over:
- Flu (every year)
Vaccines For Risk Groups
People who fall into certain risk groups may be offered extra vaccines. These include vaccinations against diseases such as hepatitis B, tuberculosis (TB), seasonal flu and chickenpox. See the NHS Choices pages on vaccines for adults to find out whether you should have one.
One in four affected
It’s easy to think that mental health issues don’t concern us, but in fact a quarter of us will have problems with our mental wellbeing at some time in our lives.
Mental health problems are equally common in men and women, but the types of problems differ. Women are one-and-a-half times more likely to be affected by anxiety and depression, while men suffer more from substance abuse (one in eight men is dependent on alcohol) and anti-social personality disorders. Men are also more prone to suicide: British men are three times more likely than British women to die as a result of suicide.
All these figures are based on people who have sought help for their mental health problems. Many more could be living with undiagnosed mental health issues, according to mental health charity MIND.
If you’re worried about your mental health, or if someone in your life is affected, there are plenty of ways to get help. Find out more about mental health support.
There’s no point spending hours choosing your swimwear, beach bag and flip-flops if you barely think about the bugs and other health risks that could ruin your holiday.
Almost one in four UK holidaymakers don’t get any vaccinations despite travelling to areas that have life-threatening infectious disease.
Find out which travel jabs you need for your destination.
It’s not worth skipping travel vaccinations. Infectious diseases can make you very sick, spoil your holiday and even kill or cripple you.
Vaccinations protect you against many travel-related infections, such as yellow fever, typhoid and hepatitis A. Use the information on these pages to learn about travel vaccines, which ones you need for your destination, and when and where to get them.
For additional general information, read our articles on travel health.
The vaccinations currently available for travellers abroad.
What’s available on the NHS?
Some travel vaccinations are freely available on the NHS. Others are only available privately.
When and where
Where and when to have your travel jabs.
Want to quit?
Talk to your GP,
contact your local NHS stop-smoking services,
or call the NHS Smoking Helpline on 0800 022 4332 (7am to 11pm)
GPs are delighted to help people who have decided to quit smoking. About 40% of smokers will die from a smoking-related condition, so they know that stopping is one change that will make a big difference to your life.
Patients will see health benefits within days, such as improved taste and smell, while important benefits, such as lower risks of heart attack, stroke, lung cancer and improvements in breathing will happen in the first year or two.
Your GP will probably have been chasing you to stop smoking if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, circulation problems or history of stroke, heart attack, angina, asthma or chronic lung disorders.
There are excellent local NHS stop-smoking services. These NHS services are very good at tailoring treatment to your lifestyle habits. With medication and the support of these services, you’re four times more likely to give up successfully.
Contraception is free for most people in the UK. With 15 methods to choose from, you’ll find one that suits you.
Contraceptive methods allow you to choose when and if you want to have a baby, but they don’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms help to protect against STIs and pregnancy, so whatever other method of contraception you’re using to prevent pregnancy, use condoms as well to protect your and your partner’s health.
Where to get it
Contraceptive services are free and confidential, including to people under 16 as long as they are mature enough to understand the information and decisions involved. There are strict guidelines to for care professionals who work with people under 16.
You can get contraception free from:
- most GP surgeries (talk to your GP or practice nurse),
- community contraceptive clinics,
- some genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics,
- sexual health clinics (these offer contraceptive and STI testing services), and
- some young people’s services (call 0800 567123).
Many of these places also offer information, testing and treatment for STIs. If you’ve been exposed to the risk of pregnancy, you’re also at risk of catching an STI.
Before you make an appointment, make sure you’re as informed as possible about the contraceptive options available. People’s choice of contraception may vary over time, depending on their lifestyle and circumstances.
Contraception and menopause
Women who have sex with men and don’t want to get pregnant need to keep on using contraception until they haven’t had a period for more than 12 months (menopause).
This is because periods can become irregular before they stop entirely, and pregnancy can still occur during this time. Find out more about menopause.
The methods of contraception
There are lots of methods to choose from, so don’t be put off if the first thing you use isn’t quite right for you; you can try another. You can read about each of the different methods of contraception by visiting these pages:
- Combined pill
- Condoms (female)
- Condoms (male)
- Contraceptive implant
- Contraceptive injection
- Contraceptive patch
- Intrauterine device (IUD)
- Intrauterine system (IUS)
- Natural family planning
- Progestogen-only pill
- Vaginal ring
There are two permanent methods of contraception:
To find your nearest contraception clinic you can use the NHS Choices service search. Enter your postcode, click ‘search’, then click ‘contraception’.
You can also look in the phone book under ‘sexual health’, or use the fpa clinic finder.
You can find out more about each type of contraception by contacting:
- fpa on 0845 122 8690.
- Brook Advisory Service (for under-25s) on 0808 802 1234.
In addition to your chosen method of contraception, you need to use condoms to prevent STIs. Always buy condoms that have the CE mark on the packet. This means that they’ve been tested to the high European safety standards. Condoms that don’t have the CE mark won’t meet these standards, so don’t use them.
Looking after someone?
Caring for someone can be very difficult and many people find that they need extra help with the care they provide.
Find out what support you might be able to receive here – provided by NHS Choices. This page also provides lots of help and advice.
Carers Direct – 0808 802 0202
Free, confidential information and advice for carers.
Lines are open 8am to 9pm Monday to Friday, 11am to 4pm at weekends. Calls are free from UK landlines or you can request a free call back.
You can also ask for a call back in one of more than 170 languages.
You can send a query to our advisers by email.
Find out more about the Carers Direct helpline.
Get Fit For Free
The secret to getting fit for free is to use every opportunity to be active.
Armed with a bit of get-up-and-go and good planning, you can be fitter than ever without spending a penny.
NHS Choices have enlisted the help of top fitness experts to help you explore new ways and places to exercise for free. Click on the following to find out more:
- Walk Everywhere
- Free Running Podcast
- Cycle to Work
- Park Games
- Home Exercises
- Trim Trails
- Green Gyms
- Outdoor Gym
- DIY Boot Camp
- Free Equipment
- Park Football
- Mall Walking
- Contact your Local Authority
- Free Gym Passes
Winter Health – Beat The Blues
Winter depression (seasonal affective disorder or SAD) is thought to affect up to one in 15 Brits every year between September and April. Many more of us (about 17%) get a milder form of the condition, known as the winter blues.
- sleep problems
- feeling down and unsociable
According to Sue Pavlovich of the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA), these 10 tips could help. “Everyone’s affected differently by SAD so what works for one person won’t for another. But there’s usually something that will help, so don’t give up if the first remedy you try doesn’t work. Just keep trying,” she says.
1. Keep active
Research has shown that a daily one-hour walk, in the middle of the day, could be as helpful as light treatment for coping with the winter blues. Read more about walking to get fit.
2. Get outside
Go outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible, especially at midday and on bright days. Inside your home, choose pale colours that reflect light from outside, and sit near windows whenever you can.
3. Keep warm
Being cold makes you more depressed. It’s also been shown that staying warm can reduce the winter blues by half. Keep warm with hot drinks and hot food. Wear warm clothes and shoes and aim to keep your home between 18C and 21C (or 64F and 70F degrees). For further information on what you can do, including applying for grants to keep your home warm, read our article on keeping warm and well.
If your symptoms are so bad that you can’t live a normal life, see your GP for medical help.
4. Eat healthily
A healthy diet will boost your mood, give you more energy and stop you putting on weight over winter. Balance your craving for carbohydrates, such as pasta and potatoes, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. “Some people tell us that taking extra vitamin D helps,” adds Pavlovich. Good food sources of vitamin D include oily fish and eggs.
Read more about healthy eating.
5. Lighten up
Light therapy can be effective in up to 85% of diagnosed cases. One way to get light therapy at home in winter is to sit in front of a light box for up to two hours a day.
Light boxes give out very bright light that is at least 10 times stronger than ordinary home and office lighting. They’re not available on the NHS and cost around £100 or more.
“Some people find that using a dawn simulator [a bedside light, connected to an alarm clock, which mimics a sunrise and wakes you up gradually] as well as a light box can enhance the beneficial effect,” says Pavlovich
The SADA Information Pack contains full details of recommended light box manufacturers and how to use them.
6. Take up a new hobby
Keeping your mind active with a new interest seems to ward off symptoms of SAD, says Pavlovich. “It could be anything, such as playing bridge, singing, knitting, joining a gym, keeping a journal or writing a blog. The important thing is that you have something to look forward to and concentrate on,” she adds.
7. See your friends and family
It’s been shown that socialising is good for your mental health and helps ward off the winter blues. Make an effort to keep in touch with people you care about and accept any invitations you get to social events, even if you only go for a little while. It will really help to lift your spirits.
8. Talk it through
Talking treatments such as counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you cope with symptoms. See your GP for information on what’s available locally on the NHS and privately. Or, read this article on how to access talking treatments.
9. Join a support group
Think about joining a support group. Sharing your experience with others who know what it’s like to have SAD is very therapeutic and can make your symptoms more bearable.
SADA is the UK’s only registered charity dedicated to seasonal affective disorder. It costs £12 (£7 for concessions) to join and you’ll receive an information pack, regular newsletters, discounts on products such as light boxes and contacts for telephone support.
10. Seek help
If your symptoms are so bad that you can’t live a normal life, see your GP for medical help.
Read more about the treatment of seasonal affective disorder.
Birth To Five
Your NHS guide to parenting in the early years
Whether your child is a newborn, a toddler or a pre-schooler, this Birth to five guide is for you. It has 150 pages of NHS-accredited information, videos and interactive tools to help you through the parenting process.
They answer all your questions, from how to soothe a crying baby to how to prepare your child for school. Learn how to spot the signs of serious illness, how to cope if an accident happens, and how to check your child’s development.
And they haven’t forgotten about you: as a parent or carer, your wellbeing is crucial too. The guide covers all you need to know about your health after having a baby, as well as your rights, benefits and NHS services.
Barbecue Food Safety
It’s important to cook food thoroughly at a barbecue to avoid food poisoning. Food poisoning is usually mild, and most people get better within a week. But sometimes it can be more severe, even deadly, so it’s important to take the risks seriously. Children, older people and those with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning.
The two main risk factors to cooking on the barbecue are:
- undercooked meat
- spreading germs from raw meat onto food that’s ready to eat
This is because raw or undercooked meat can contain germs that cause food poisoning, such as salmonella, E.coli and campylobacter. However, it’s easy to kill these germs by cooking meat until it is piping hot throughout.
When you’re cooking any kind of meat on a barbecue, such as poultry (chicken or turkey), pork, steak, burgers or sausages, make sure:
- The coals are glowing red with a powdery grey surface before you start cooking, as this means that they’re hot enough.
- Frozen meat is properly thawed before you cook it.
- You turn the meat regularly and move it around the barbecue to cook it evenly.
Remember that meat is safe to eat only when:
- It is piping hot in the centre.
- There is no pink meat visible.
- Any juices are clear.
Hay Fever – Allergy UK helpline: 01322 619898
Hay fever affects around 20% of people in the UK. Lindsey McManus of Allergy UK offers some tips on avoiding the causes and reducing your symptoms.
“The main triggers of hay fever are tree and grass pollen,” says Lindsey. “The pollen count is always higher when it’s a nice, bright, sunny day.”
- If grass makes you sneeze, get someone else to mow your lawn. If you react to grass and you spend time on the lawn, you’ll get symptoms.
- Create a barrier by smearing Vaseline inside your nostrils.
- Don’t sit outside between 4pm and 7pm or in the early morning, as the pollen count is highest at these times.
- Don’t sleep or drive with the windows open, as this will allow pollen to come in.
- Damp dust regularly.
- Wash your hair. Pollen is sticky and may be in your hair.
- Vacuum. Pollen can live in carpet for up to three months.
- Talk to your GP or pharmacist about any treatment you’re taking for hay fever as it might be worth trying a new treatment. The same antihistamine [anti-allergy treatment] doesn’t always work for someone year after year. Try something different, such as a nasal spray or a new antihistamine.
It’s important to protect your and your children’s skin in the sun to avoid sunburn and heat exhaustion.
Knowing how to treat an insect sting and how to recognise when it needs medical attention will help you do the right thing if you or your child are stung.
Insects such as wasps and bees sting as a defence mechanism (when they feel in danger) by injecting poisonous venom into the skin. For most people, stings are painful but harmless. But some people can have an immediate allergic reaction to being stung, which can be very dangerous.