As regions across the UK are experiencing a cold snap and further snowfall is expected in the next couple of days, the NHS has issued advice on how to keep well in winter. The Met Office issued a series of weather warnings as an arctic blast hit southern areas on Wednesday (March 8), with conditions expected to move north and worsen throughout the week.
A cold weather alert has been issued by the Met Office in some parts which means the low temperatures could have a significant effect on your health and well-being. The NHS has issued advice to those who might be impacted by the cold spell.
The NHS website states “Cold weather can make some health problems worse and even lead to serious complications, especially if you’re 65 or older, or if you have a long-term health condition.” It also says vulnerable people should make sure they get their COVID-19 booster and flu vaccinations every year.
Who’s most at risk from cold weather?
Some people are more vulnerable to the effects of cold weather. This includes:
- people aged 65 and older
- babies and children under the age of 5
- people on a low income (so cannot afford to heat)
- people who have a long-term health condition
- people with a disability
- pregnant women
- people who have a mental health condition
- Get advice if you feel unwell
- If you’re 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.
How to get health advice during a cold spell
- 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 are not sure what to do
- The sooner you get advice, the sooner you’re likely to get better.
- In an emergency, go to A&E immediately or call 999.
Keep warm and get help with heating
Keeping warm over the winter months can help to prevent colds, flu and more serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression. Heat your home to a temperature that’s comfortable for you. If you can, this should be at least 18°C in the rooms that you regularly use, such as your living room and bedroom.
Make sure you’re getting all the help that you’re entitled to with bills. There are grants, benefits and advice available to make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating or help with bills.
Some people may be entitled to a cold weather payment to help cover costs during a cold spell. This means you can get paid up to £25 a week to help towards heating your home. To find out if you are eligible visit the government website.
Look in on vulnerable neighbours and relatives
Keep an eye on older and vulnerable people around you who may need some extra help. Icy pavements and roads can be very slippery, and cold weather can stop people from going out so make sure they’re stocked up with enough food supplies in case they cannot go out.
If they do need to go out in the cold, encourage them to wear shoes with a good grip and a scarf around the mouth to protect them from cold air, and to reduce their risk of chest infections. If you’re worried about a relative or elderly neighbour, contact your local council or contact the Age UK.
If you’re concerned the person may have hypothermia go to the NHS 111 website or call 111.