How the cold can affect your health
The cold and damp weather – ice, snow and cold winds – can be bad for your health, especially if you're aged 65 or older. It can make you more more vulnerable to winter illnesses, such as coughs and colds, which could become very serious. It also increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke. However, there are things you can do.
What you can do
Get expert advice
If you are 65 or over, or in one of the other at-risk groups, it's important to get medical help as soon as you feel unwell.
You can get help and advice from:
- a pharmacy – pharmacists can give treatment advice for a range of minor illnesses and can tell you if you need to see a doctor
- your GP – you may be able to speak to a GP online or over the phone, or go in for an appointment if they think you need to
- NHS 111 – go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111 if you have an urgent medical problem and you’re not sure what to do
The sooner you get advice, the sooner you are likely to get better.
Buy over-the-counter medicines
Many over-the-counter medicines (including paracetamol and ibuprofen) are available to relieve symptoms of common winter ailments such as colds, sore throat, cough, sinusitis or painful middle ear infection (earache).
Call a pharmacy or contact them online before going in person. You can get medicines delivered or ask someone to collect them.
Keep yourself, and your home, warm
Keeping warm, both inside and outdoors, over the winter months can help to prevent colds, flu and more serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression.
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
- keep your bedroom at 18C all night if you can – and keep bedroom window closed
- if you're under 65, healthy and active, you can safely have your home cooler than 18C, as long as you're comfortable
- use a hot water bottle or electric blanket to keep warm in bed – but do not use both at the same time
- have at least 1 hot meal a day – eating regularly helps keep you warm
- have hot drinks regularly
- to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), babies should sleep in rooms heated to between 16C and 20C
- draw curtains at dusk and keep doors closed to block out draughts
- get your heating system checked regularly by a qualified professional
Get the right help
For more information on how to reduce your bills and make your home more energy efficient, go to the government's Simple Energy Advice website, or call the Simple Energy Advice helpline on 0800 444 202.
You can also find out about heating and housing benefits on GOV.UK. It's worth claiming all the benefits you're entitled to as soon as winter begins.
Cosy Homes in Lancashire (CHIL) provides you with access to cost effective ways of keeping your home warm, whether you own or privately rent.
It is a partnership of 15 local authorities offering resident access to energy efficient grants, affordable heating solutions, energy advice and a range of money saving measure to help them heat and insulate their home.
You don’t have to be on benefits to apply and they are looking for new applications. To find out more, please visit www.chil.uk.com and register to see if you are eligible.
You can also check your heating and cooking appliances are safe and operating properly by contacting a Gas Safe registered engineer.
Look in on vulnerable neighbours and relatives
Check on older neighbours and relatives, and those with heart or breathing (respiratory) problems, to make sure they:
- are safe and well
- are warm enough, especially at night
- have stocks of food and medicines so they do not 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 1602 (8am to 7pm every day). If you're concerned the person may have hypothermia, contact NHS 111.