Cold homes have a significant impact on people's health. One the best ways of keeping yourself well during winter is to stay warm.
Keeping warm over the winter months can help prevent colds, flu or more serious health conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression.
The chances of these problems are higher if you are vulnerable to cold-related illnesses because of one or more of the following:
- you're over 65
- you're on a low income (so cannot afford heating)
- you have a long-term health condition such as heart, lung or kidney disease
- you are disabled
Flu is a highly infectious illness that can spread rapidly.
If you are at risk of complications from flu, you may be eligible for a free flu jab.
How to stay warm
The government's advice on getting ready for winter aims to reduce cold-related illness and deaths. Key tips include:
- Keep your home warm. Your main living room should be between around 18-21C (65-70F) and the rest of the house at a minimum of 16C (61F). You can also use a hot-water bottle or electric blanket (but not both at the same time) to keep warm while you are in bed.
- Eat well. Food is a vital source of energy, which helps to keep your body warm. Try to make sure that you have hot meals and drinks regularly throughout the day and keep active in the home if you can.
- Wrap up warm, inside and out. Layer your clothing to stay warm and wear shoes with a good grip if you need to go outside. If possible, stay inside during a cold period if you have heart or respiratory problems.
- Check on older neighbours or relatives to make sure they are safe and well. Make sure they are warm enough, especially at night, and have stocks of food and medicines so they don't need to go out during very cold weather. If you are worried about a relative or an elderly neighbour, contact your local council or ring the Age UK helpline on 0800 00 99 66.
Cold weather benefits
You may also be able to claim financial and practical help with heating your home. Grants available include the Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments.
Winter Fuel Payments of up to £300 are available if you were born on or before July 5 1951.
To find out more about Winter Fuel Payments, call 0845 915 1151 (8.30am-4.30pm Monday-Friday, textphone 0845 601 5613) or visit Winter Fuel Payment
Cold Weather Payments may be available to you if you receive certain benefits or have a child who is disabled or under the age of five.
To find out more about Cold Weather Payments contact Jobcentre Plus (you can find the nearest office in the phonebook) or visit Cold Weather Payment
The Energy Saving Trust (EST) 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 EST website or call 0300 123 1234 (9am-8pm Monday-Friday and 10am-2pm Saturday).
For more information on cold weather benefits and other help available read the 'Financial help to heat your home' section in the Keep Warm, Keep Well leaflet.
Stay Well This Winter
10 things you can do to prepare for winter
Cold weather can be a risk to your health, particularly if you are over 65 or have health conditions.
Keeping warm during winter months can help prevent colds, flu and more serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression. Stay Well This Winter campaign provides top tips for keeping warm over the winter months.
1. Heat the home:
Try to heat your home to a steady and comfortable temperature throughout the day in the rooms you use most. – usually around 18°C (64°F) is ideal. At dusk close curtains and windows to help keep the heat in. Breathing in cold air can be bad for your health because it increases the risk of chest infections. Make sure your radiators are not obstructed by furniture or curtains. If there are rooms you don't use, like a spare bedroom, turn off the radiators in that room and close the doors. This will help you save on energy costs while keeping warm.
2. Dress warm:
Wearing plenty of layers is the best way to keep warm in winter and better than wearing one bulky layer. Clothes made from cotton, wool or fleecy fibres are good at helping to maintain body heat. Also wear good-fitting slippers and shoes with a grip to avoid slipping.
3. Get your flu jab:
Winter weather coincides with the flu season and flu can affect people in different ways. The flu vaccine helps protect against flu, which can be a serious or life-threatening illness. It's offered on the NHS every year to people at higher risk of getting seriously ill from flu. Find out more about flu vaccinations.
If you are aged 65 years or older or are have an increased risk you may be eligible for a seasonal COVID -19 Vaccine. The last date you will be able to get your seasonal COVID-19 vaccine is 31 January 2024. Eligibility Criteria and walk-In information
4. Stop the spread of Germs:
As well as getting vaccinated, there are some other simple measures you can take to reduce the spread of illness. Regularly washing your hands with soap and water is one of the best ways to stop germs from spreading.
You can also:
- catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue
- choose to wear a face covering in busy indoor spaces, like shops
- leave windows ajar to let fresh air circulate when meeting people indoors
- avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
5. Keep Moving:
A little bit of activity now and then is a great way to help you keep warm over the colder winter months. If possible, try to move around least once an hour. Remember to speak to your GP before starting any exercise plans to ensure they are tailored for your needs and abilities. Southwark residents can use swimming and gym facilities for free.
6. Eat Well:
Hot food and drinks can help you to keep warm, so try to have one hot meal a day and as many hot drinks as you can. Try to have a range of foods in your diet and try to eat fruit and vegetables each day – frozen and tinned vegetables can be just as good as fresh. Think about stocking up on cold and sore throat remedies as well as food, in case it's harder to leave the house. If needing help with groceries you can visit local Food Banks, Community Fridges. You might also want to get big bottle of water in case the water supply is interrupted.
7. Be smart and energy efficient:
Make sure you're getting all the help that you're entitled to. There are grants, benefits and advice available to make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating or help with bills.
8. Make sure your home is fire safe.
For fire safety advice specific to you and your home, visit the online home fire safety check website to complete a safety check for your home. Check your heating and cooking appliances are safe by contacting a Gas Safe registered engineer.
9. Community Pharmacies:
If you start to feel unwell over the winter months, even if it’s just a cough or a cold, it’s important to get help from your pharmacist before it gets more serious. Pharmacists are fully qualified to advise you on the best course of action – this can be the best and quickest way to help you recover and get back to normal. If you can’t go yourself, you could always ask someone else to go for you.
10. Think of vulnerable neighbours:
Older neighbours, friends and family members, may need some extra help over the winter. If you're worried about a relative or elderly neighbour, contact your GP Practice or call the Age UK helpline on 0800 678 1602 (8am to 7pm every day).
You may be able to help your neighbour with an important job to prepare for winter, or your neighbour may be able to help you. Just taking time to make contact will be appreciated.
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