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Cold weather advice – why is it important?
Cold weather advice – why is it important?
Every winter, tens of thousands of people die due to issues linked with cold weather. The Cold Weather Plan for England aims to prevent avoidable harm to health, by alerting people to the negative health effects of cold weather, and enabling them to prepare and respond appropriately.
The plan is published by Public Health England, but developed collaboratively in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England, the Local Government Association and others including the voluntary and community sector.
You may also be aware that Public Health England and the Met Office run a cold weather alert system that when conditions are forecast to hit certain trigger warnings, prompt automatic warnings to those signed up to them.
Here is some advice about how to look after yourself and others in the cold weather:
Cold weather can affect your health, when the temperature drops to below 8C, some people are at increased risk of:
- heart attack
- falls and injuries
Cold weather can also affect people with mental health conditions, such as depression and dementia.
Very cold weather can affect anyone, but you are most vulnerable if:
- you’re 65 or older
- you’re on a low income (so can’t afford heating)
- you have a long-term health condition, such as heart, lung or kidney disease
- you’re disabled
- you’re pregnant
- you have young children (newborn to school age)
- you have a mental health condition
What can you do?
If you start to feel unwell, even if it’s a cough or cold, don’t wait until it gets more serious. Seek advice from your pharmacist.
Follow these tips on keeping well in the cold:
- find out if you can get the flu jab for free on the NHS
- wear several layers of clothes rather than one chunky layer – clothes made from cotton, wool or fleecy fibres help to maintain body heat
- use a hot water bottle or electric blanket to keep warm in bed – but don’t use both at the same time
- have at least one hot meal a day – eating regularly helps keep you warm; and make sure you have hot drinks regularly
- try not to sit still for more than an hour or so indoors – get up and stretch your legs
- stay active – even moderate exercise can help keep you warm
- wrap a scarf loosely around your mouth when outdoors – add a hat and wear shoes with a good grip, too.
- ff you have a heart or respiratory problem, stay indoors during very cold weather
How to keep your home warm: Follow these tips to keep you and your family warm and well at home:
- if you’re not very mobile, are 65 or over, or have a health condition, such as heart or lung disease, heat your home to at least 18C (65F)
- keep your bedroom at 18C all night if you can – and keep the bedroom window closed
- during the day you may prefer your living room to be slightly warmer than 18C
- to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), babies should sleep in rooms heated to between 16C and 20C
- if you’re under 65, healthy and active, you can safely have your home cooler than 18C, if you’re comfortable
- draw curtains at dusk and keep doors closed to block out draughts
- get your heating system checked regularly by a qualified professional
Help with heating costs
For more information on cold weather benefits and the other help available, read the Financial help to heat your home section in the Keep warm, keep well leaflet (PDF, 329kb).
The Energy Saving Trust has advice on how to reduce bills and make your home more energy efficient. They can also advise on grants and schemes available around the UK.
Find out more online from the Energy Saving Trust or call 0300 123 1234 (9am-8pm Monday to Friday).
It’s worthwhile claiming all the benefits you are entitled to before winter sets in.
Look in on vulnerable neighbours and relatives
Check up on older neighbours and relatives, and those with heart or respiratory (breathing) problems, to make sure:
- they’re safe and well
- are warm enough, especially at night
- have stocks of food and medicines so they don’t need to go out during very cold weather
If you’re worried about a relative or elderly neighbour, contact your local council or call the Age UK helpline on 0800 678 1174 (8am-7pm every day).
If you’re concerned that the person may be suffering from hypothermia, contact NHS 111.