Are you or do you know someone at risk from being cold? As the weather gets colder, it's essential to keep warm.
More people get ill in winter. There is a direct link between cold weather and the higher death rate, especially amongst older people and others in at-risk groups.
Winter needn't be dangerous if you take the right steps.
It is important to prevent people from becoming cold in the first place. Family, friends and neighbours in the community can look out for those who might be at risk from the cold.
Looking out for trouble
If someone has had an accident in their home, fallen and injured themselves or been taken ill, they may not be able to attract attention of neighbours, passers-by or people who call at the door. Always be on the look-out for signs that something might be wrong, especially when the weather is cold.
What signs should I be looking for?
There are many signs to look out for:
milk not taken in late in the day
newspapers stuck in the letterbox
curtains drawn during the day
lights burning during the day
home in darkness when there should be someone at home
dog barking all day or the cat scratching to be let in
What is hypothermia?
Hypothermia is a lowered deep-core body temperature of 35C/95F or below.
It is the lowered temperature of the organs inside the body which is important - an ordinary thermometer cannot measure this.
You may not actually feel cold but if you sit in a cold room and do little or nothing to keep warm then you may run the risk of becoming hypothermic or becoming ill with bronchitis or pneumonia. Both are cold-related illnesses.
What are the danger signs of hypothermia?
The danger signs are:
very cold skin on parts of the body normally covered, for example the stomach or armpits
not feeling cold, even in a bitterly cold room
What should I do if I discover someone who may be hypothermic?
If you are in any doubt:
do move the person into warmer surroundings if possible
wrap the person in a light layer of blankets or a duvet to avoid further loss of body heat. Give them warm, nourishing drinks
call the doctor or nurse or NHS Direct
do not subject the person to any sudden extreme change of temperature - so do not put them next to a fire or give them hot water bottles or heavy layers of clothes or blankets
do not give them alcohol, as it will stimulate further heat loss through the skin.
How can I keep myself warm?
Be safe. Safety is important in all aspects of keeping yourself warm. Care should be taken when using electric blankets or filling hot water bottles. Never use a hot water bottle and an electric blanket together, as this is extremely dangerous and could give you an electric shock.
There are other ways to keep both you and your home warm:
Insulate your home – fit draught proofing, insulate your walls and attic space. Grants are available from the Warm Front Scheme and your energy supplier.
Update and improve your heating system – grants are available from the warm front scheme for installing efficient and modern forms of central heating
Get financial support – the Pension Service, the Warm Front Scheme and the Home Heat Helpline offer advice to increase energy efficiency and reduce fuel bills.
Heat well – Try to keep a temperature of 21C (70F) in the main rooms you use during the day; your bedroom should be kept avove 18 degrees.
Dress well – Wear plenty of layers and put on a good coat, hat, scarf and gloves when ou go outside to help you keep warm
Eat well – food is a vital source of warmth, so try to have regular hot meals and drinks throughout the day.
Keep moving – Moving around is good for your health and generates extra body heat, so any exercise or activity willhelp keep you warm. If possible try and move round at least once an hour.
Stop smoking – stopping smoking will boost your health for the winter, reduce your chances of a heart attack and improve your body’s circulation.
Get a flu jab – This is available from your GP if you are 65 or over, or if you have a serious respiratory condition, heart, kidney or liver disease, diabetes or lowered immunity, or if you have had a stroke.
Stay safe – Get your heating system serviced and your chimney swept every year – be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and protect yourself against them.
You may be entitled to some additional financial help, especially during periods of very cold weather.
How do I find out if I am entitled to extra financial help?
To check on your entitlement to any social security benefits and whether you will qualify for the winter fuel and other payments call the Citizens Advice Bureau: 020 8572 1082.
Gov.UK is a government website with information about winter fuel payments, cold weather payments and the Warm Front Scheme.