Boy sneezing into a tissue

During the colder winter months when people stay indoors for longer, and in larger groups, we see an increase in the number of people reporting coughs, colds and flu-like illnesses.

Compared to previous years, we are likely to be doing much more socialising with colleagues, friends and family this winter. Public Health Scotland (PHS) Director of Public Health Science, Dr Nick Phin, shares some hints and tips on how best to look after ourselves over the festive season.


Flu and COVID vaccinations offer some of the best ways to protect you and your family against both the COVID-19 and flu viruses. If you are invited for a vaccination this winter, please use the opportunity to increase your protection against flu or COVID-19 by taking up the offer.

Hand hygiene

Good hand hygiene can offer some protection against many of the common viruses causing a range of respiratory and other infections. By keeping our hands clean and helping to ensure children practice good hand hygiene, we can help reduce the spread of many common infections this winter.

Winter bugs and infections

There is no vaccine to protect against most of the viruses which commonly occur during the winter months, for example, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and norovirus. Fortunately, vaccines that help protect against flu and coronavirus (COVID-19) each winter are now available.

Norovirus is a highly contagious virus which causes vomiting and/or diarrhoea. The virus can survive for days on any surface and causes outbreaks in the community, as well as health and care settings. Norovirus can’t always be avoided, but, as with many viruses, there are steps we can all take to help to prevent it spreading:

  • If you have symptoms of a GI or respiratory infection, please wait for at least 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped before having direct contact with others or cooking for other people
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, particularly after using the toilet.
  • Don’t share towels, flannels and toothbrushes.
  • Keep household surfaces clean.
  • Rinse fruit and vegetables well before eating them.

More information

Information on easing the symptoms of common winter viruses, as well as self-help guides for various other illnesses, can be found on NHS Inform: Self-help guides by name | NHS inform

Additional advice on the steps we can take to prepare for winter weather, ensure we keep warm, and look after our mental health and wellbeing can also be found on NHS Inform: Healthy know how | NHS inform

For more information on winter vaccines, including finding out what you’re eligible for and how to arrange your vaccination appointment, please visit: Winter vaccines | NHS inform

More advice and guidance on how to stay healthy and well this winter will be shared on PHS’s social media channels. Look out for #PHSWinterInfo

Last updated: 18 January 2023