Cold weather can be bad for your health, particularly for vulnerable groups like the elderly and people with long term health conditions. As the temperatures plummet, it’s important to look after yourself, and keep an eye on neighbours who might need some extra support.
Here are some useful tips for keeping yourself and others well during the cold weather.
Keeping your home warm, efficient and safe:
Heating your home to at least 18C in winter poses minimal risk to your health when you are wearing suitable clothing.
- Heating your home to at least 18C is particularly important if you have reduced mobility, are 65 and over, or have a health condition, such as heart or lung disease. Having room temperatures slightly over 18C could be good for your health.
- If you are under 65, active and wearing appropriate clothing, you may feel comfortable at room temperatures slightly lower than 18C.
- Overnight, people who are 65 and over or who have pre-existing health conditions, may find bedroom temperatures of at least 18C are good for their health; this may be less important if you are a healthy adult under 65 and have appropriate clothing and bedding.
- If you can’t heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room during the day and your bedroom just before you go to sleep.
- Get your heating system and cooking appliances checked and keep your home well ventilated.
- If you have an electric blanket, use it as instructed and get it tested every three years. Never use a hot water bottle with an electric blanket.
- Do not use a gas cooker or oven to heat your home; it is inefficient and there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning which can kill.
- If you are not on mains gas or electricity make sure you have a supply of heating oil, LPG or solid fuel so you do not run out in winter.
Keep the warmth in by:
- Fitting draught proofing to seal any gaps around windows and doors.
- Making sure you have loft insulation. And if you have cavity walls, make sure they are insulated too.
- Insulate your hot water cylinder and pipes.
- Draw your curtains at dusk and tuck behind radiators to help keep heat inside.
- Make sure your radiators are not obstructed by furniture or curtains.
Look after yourself:
- Keeping well will allow you to do more and keep your independence. Being cold isn’t just uncomfortable it can be bad for your health. Sitting or sleeping in a cold room is not good for you and increases the risk of heart attacks, stroke and breathing problems. Don’t let the cold catch you out – check the weather forecast and be ready for cold weather.
- Keep your bedroom windows closed on a winter’s night; breathing cold air can increase the risk of chest infections.
- Food is a vital source of energy and helps to keep your body warm so have plenty of hot food and drinks.
- Aim to include five daily portions of fruit and vegetables. Tinned and frozen vegetables count towards your five a day.
- Stock up on tinned and frozen foods so you don’t have to go out too much when it’s cold or icy.
- Exercise is good for you all year round and it can keep you warm in winter.
- Keep moving if you can, this will help keep you warm. Try not to sit for more than an hour – get up and walk around, make a hot drink and spread housework throughout the day. If walking is a problem try moving your arms and legs whilst sitting or wiggling your fingers and toes.
- Wear a few layers of thin clothing rather than one thick layer; this will trap the heat better to keep you warm. Socks and hats are great too and are a good idea to keep you warm in bed. Thin layers of clothes made from cotton, wool or fleecy fibres are particularly good and maintain body heat.
- Wear good-fitting slippers with a good grip indoors and shoes with a good grip outside to prevent slips, trips and falls.
- Make sure you have spare medication in case you are unable to go out.
- Cover yourself with a blanket or shawl if you are sitting for long periods, this will help keep you warm. Put your feet up if you can; the air may be colder near the floor.
- Power and utility companies have schemes which make at-risk groups a priority for reconnection following power cuts. Find out if you meet the criteria and if so, sign up. Visit https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/consumers/household-gas-and-electricity-guide/extra-help-energy-services/priority-services-register-people-need for more information
Look after others:
- Check on frail or older neighbours or relatives, especially those living alone or who have serious illnesses to make sure they are safe, warm and well.
- All of the advice for looking after yourself can be used to plan how to help others.
- Those with care responsibilities, whether that’s for family members or on a professional or voluntary basis, should consult the cold weather plan for England for a range of useful advice as well as ensuring that those at risk have homes heated to at least 18C and receive regular visitors. In advance of winter, carers should be aware of how to refer to local housing and health referral services if further support is required.
- Charities, social and health care organisations should ensure that carers of those most at-risk are getting the support and advice they need to protect those who may be vulnerable to the ill-effects of cold weather.
Get financial help:
- There are grants, benefits and advice to help make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating or help with bills. It’s worthwhile claiming all the benefits you are entitled to before winter sets in.