When the temperature drops, it's important to take steps to keep yourself warm, both in the home and when you go out.
It's an old myth that you can catch a cold from going out in cold weather, but getting too cold can still be bad for your health. Cold weather can be particularly dangerous if you have breathing problems, reduced mobility, a low immune system, or circulatory conditions. Illnesses like colds and flu are also more common during the winter months as it's easier for the germs to move in cold air. If you get too cold for too long, you could suffer from hypothermia, which is when your body starts to shut down to save heat.
If you feel cold or can't afford to heat your home ask for help. You may be entitled to help with your heating costs.
Keeping yourself warm
- wrap up against the cold by wearing suitable clothing. It's better to wear several thin layers rather than one thick coat or jumper, as the layers will trap warm air close to the body
- a lot of heat is lost through the head and neck, so if you're chilly indoors, try wearing a hat and scarf. You may feel silly, but you will be warm!
- if you're sitting down, a shawl or blanket will provide extra warmth. You should also try to keep your feet up, because air is cooler at ground level
- wear warm clothes in bed. Fleecy pyjamas or 'onesies' (one-piece full-body garments) are a good choice. When it's really cold, wear thermal underwear, bed socks, and even a hat if you like!
- if you're able to move about, gentle exercise will help you to feel warmer and improve your circulation
- electric blankets, hot water bottles, and microwaveable heat packs can be helpful, but remember to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. Don't overheat them, or use them for long periods to avoid the risk of burns. Also don't use a hot water bottle and an electric blanket at the same time
- stay tuned in to the weather forecast. Ensure you are stocked with food and medications in advance (have deliveries or ask a friend to help)
- make sure you have regular hot meals that contain carbohydrates such as potatoes, pasta, bread, and rice. Hot porridge for breakfast and warm soups, casseroles or stews are deliciously warming in cold weather
Keeping your home warm
- check room temperatures. If you or someone else is likely to be restricted to one room during the winter period or during a cold spell, make sure that it can be kept at or above 21°C during the day and 18°C during the night
- the cost of heating always seems to be rising, so do make sure you use your heating to maximum effect. If it isn't working efficiently, you could be wasting energy, and still not staying warm enough. Have your heating system serviced regularly
- you may be eligible for a Warm Home Discount
- get a keyhole cover. It should only cost a couple of pounds, and will help keep the draughts out in cold weather
- shut doors to keep the heat in the rooms you use the most
- use draught excluders to cover gaps at the bottom of doors. These can be strips that attach to the bottom of the door, or a stuffed fabric tube. You could also use an old blanket
- if you can, fit thermal linings to your curtains. This will help to keep the heat in
- don't put furniture in front of a radiator as the heat will be wasted
- making sure your home is well-insulated will make it easier and cheaper to heat your home efficiently. Consider cavity wall insulation or loft insulation. The government's Green Deal scheme may help you to do this
- draw your curtains as soon as it gets dark to stop the heat escaping, and the draughts coming in
- keep any windows and external doors closed when it's cold. This will keep heat inside where you most need it
- have a look at the Energy Saving Trust website for lots of ideas on how to save energy
Taking care when out and about
- when you're going outside in cold weather, make sure you dress suitably. Warm gloves, a hat, and thermal socks are important
- wear shoes or boots with deep treads/grips when there is ice and snow around to reduce the risk of slipping. You can also get metal grips which you attach to your shoes to make it easier to walk in snow and ice
- carry an umbrella in case of rain or snow. Getting wet will make you feel much colder
- ask friends and neighbours to help you with clearing snow and ice from the front of your house, and public walkways nearby if you are unable to do this yourself
- if you're worried about falling, try to avoid going out in icy weather. Friendly neighbours may be able to help with your shopping and other errands, or you could consider shopping online to get your groceries delivered instead of going to the supermarket
Looking out for other people
Most of us can wrap up warm and cope when the weather gets colder, but try to think about how the cold weather might be affecting people around you. Maintain regular contact with vulnerable people and neighbours you know to be at risk in cold weather. Ensure they have access to warm food and drinks, and are managing to heat their home adequately.
The Community and Voluntary Services (CVS) aim to prevent and respond to crisis, support clients most at risk to access a benefits check and provide minor home improvements. This can include emergency heating, food, clothing, home visits, and transport.
Those most at risk include:
- older people, especially those over 75
- people living on their own and/or are socially isolated
- people with chronic and severe illness
- children under 5 living in poor housing
- homeless people/street sleepers
- fuel poor people
- people living in housing which is in poor condition and/or living in generally deprived circumstances
CVS contact details are:
If you are particularly vulnerable during cold weather because of health problems or a disability then you can apply to go on the Priority Services Register. People listed on this register will receive special attention in the event of a power cut.
Other information and advice
The government has produced a leaflet called Keep Warm Keep Well.
Take a look at the Energy Saving Trust website for lots of ideas on how to save energy.
Age UK have advice on staying healthy during the winter, and a leaflet called Winter Wrapped Up
The government's Green Deal is a scheme which can help you make energy-saving improvements to your home or business.
The Department of Health has produced an easy-to-read leaflet which will help people with learning disabilities to understand more about the importance of staying warm.