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It’s a snow-brainer: Know where to go for a happy, healthy season!

It’s a snow-brainer: Know where to go for a happy, healthy season!

Dec. 15, 2023

All CHI locations


  • The best HSE advice to keep your winter merry and bright available here

Santa knows his route, and so should you when it comes to choosing the right healthcare option this Christmas. Depending on your illness, there are a number of treatment options open to you. Being prepared and knowing where is the perfect gift for yourself and the healthcare system – it means you can get treated more quickly and that will ease pressures on our hospitals.

Consider using services such as your local pharmacy,, before dashing to your GP, or Emergency Department. In addition, the HSE injury units are available to treat people with broken bones, sprains, minor burns and a range of other injuries unlikely to need hospital admission.

Mild symptoms - Treat at home

A red nose may be appropriate for Rudolf, but you not so much… There’s a sleigh-ful of helpful information available online on treating common winter illness, such as coughs, colds and flu. There is also advice about how to protect yourself and others during winter.

Remember: You do not need an antibiotic if you have a viral infection. Antibiotics cannot treat viruses. An increase in respiratory illness in children is expected during the winter period. Most can be managed at home with over-the-counter medicines.

You should:

Viral infections are very contagious. They can spread quickly before you notice the symptoms. It can be difficult to stop them spreading to people who are vulnerable. Most of the time you do not need to visit your GP. But trust your instincts. Bring your child to your GP if you are worried about them.

If you have a chronic condition, review your medicine and management of your chronic disease with your public health nurse (PHN), GP or pharmacist.

Useful tips for patients and families

  • Patients who may need regular prescriptions are urged to get them filled on time
  • People are advised to check their first aid boxes are well stocked to treat minor illness and injuries
  • Check the HSE website for useful advice on common illnesses such as colds, coughs, flu, earache and sore throats
  • If you are caring for someone that is terminally ill, please have medicines that are recommended by your Palliative Care team or GP for situations that could arise.

You can keep yourself, your patients and service users safe by:

  • Keeping your hands clean
  • Staying home if you are unwell
  • Adhering to respiratory and cough etiquette
  • Keeping up to date with vaccines, including the annual flu vaccine
  • Being aware of how infection prevention and control can protect your families, patients and service users

Non-urgent illnesses – GPs

You don’t want your illness to snowball so, if your symptoms don't improve over time, or if they worsen, call your GP. Your GP can help with non-urgent illnesses. Make sure you are registered with a GP, check out the GP finder here. Know your urgent GP out-of-hours arrangements and contact details.

If you urgently need to see a GP outside of their clinic hours, you can contact your local GP out-of-hours service. You must make an appointment. There is no drop-in facility.

However, if your symptoms are more severe and you can’t wait for an appointment with your doctor, consider your other options.

Injuries unlikely to need hospital admission - Injury units

Injury units can treat many of the injuries people go to the emergency department for. For example, broken bones, dislocations, and minor burns.

You can get treatment such as x-rays, plaster casts, and wound care in an injury unit.

If they cannot help with a particular problem, they will direct you to where you can get the right help.

For details of locations, opening times, list of injuries and ages that can be treated at an injury unit, go to

When you arrive at an injury unit, you will be:

  • registered and assessed by the nursing team
  • treated by a doctor or advanced nurse practitioner (a specially trained nurse) depending on the care you need
  • given details of any follow-up appointments you may need in the injury unit
  • referred on to other services if needed

And guess what? No appointments needed!

There is no charge if you have a full medical card or have a GP referral letter. Otherwise it costs €75 to attend an injury unit.

Life-threatening emergencies - Emergency Departments

Emergency Departments (EDs) deal with life-threatening emergencies. Emergency departments are busy. You may have to wait a long time to be seen. The sickest people are seen first.

Life-threatening emergencies include things like, if someone is breathless; is feeling unwell and getting sicker very quickly; has not peed in over 12 hours and does not need to pee. Other examples include when someone is not feeling well and has become confused and agitated; is very pale with cold hands and feet; is dizzy when they sit up or unable to stand; has developed a rash that does not disappear when pressed down.


Getting vaccinated is the most effective way of preventing infections. You can get the Covid-19 Vaccine if you are 50 and over, immunocompromised and have long-term health conditions. A booster vaccine is recommended during pregnancy.

Covid-19 vaccines are also available for children aged 6 months to 4 years who have a health condition that puts them at high risk of severe illness if they get Covid-19.

The flu vaccine is recommended if you are 65 and over. The children’s flu vaccine for 2-17 year olds is also available now. The pneumococcal vaccine (PPV23) which protects against pneumonia, septicaemia and meningitis is also available free of charge from participating GPs for people aged 65 and older. Vaccines for these people are free and available from the GP and pharmacy. Use the HSE pharmacy finder for vaccine clinics here

Visit How to keep well this winter for health information and advice from the HSE, including tips for eating well, exercise and physical activity, and minding your mental health over the coming months.

Keep an eye on your social feeds on Instagram @IrishHealthService, Twitter @HSELive and Facebook for information on injury units near you and other HSE winter season related news #COVIDVaccine #FluVaccine #InjuryUnits #MyChild

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