The Department of Health and the NHS have issues a Cold Weather Plan to help protect individuals and communities. These pages have extracts from the advice for individuals and for community groups.
Individuals, families and carers
Consider how you can protect yourself and your family and friends from the effects of cold weather:
- Ensure that you can easily access information about cold weather and health (further information is given in the Cold Weather Plan and in the companion document to the plan, Making the Case).
- Make sure that you and your family members have received all appropriate vaccinations (influenza, pneumococcal, meningitis), particularly if you or they are in an at-risk group.
- Ensure that you have a room thermometer.
- Consider improving the heating efficiency of your home, including better insulation.
- Find out whether you are entitled to grants and subsidies for home heating and insulation.
- Check that home heating, radiators, boilers and electric heaters are serviced ahead of winter to reduce the risk of breakdowns during the cold weather.
- Have all gas, solid fuel and oil burning appliances (i.e. boilers, heaters and cookers) serviced by an appropriately registered engineer. Malfunctioning appliances can release carbon monoxide – a gas which at high levels will kill and at lower levels can cause health problems.
- Make sure that flues and chimneys are swept and checked for blockages and that there is adequate ventilation in rooms to allow appliances to work properly. Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm which is EN50291 compliant, although fitting this type of alarm should not replace regular maintenance of appliances.
- Where the home is not connected to the mains gas network and heating oil or LPG is the main heating source, households should ensure that heating oil and gas are purchased early to avoid running out during periods of severely cold weather.
- Consider who might be at particular risk from cold weather among your family, neighbours and friends, and how you can help them to protect themselves against the ill-effects of cold weather.
- Layer your clothing and wear shoes with a good grip if you need to go outside.
- Follow expert advice on protecting and insulating your water pipes against freezing (advice on pipe protection and what to do in the event of bursts is given by most water companies on their websites).
Consider how you can protect yourself and your family and friends, especially those most at risk.
These include older people, the very young, and people with underlying medical conditions, including respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Actions to prepare for impending severe winter weather include:
- Stay informed by tuning in to weather forecasts.
- Take the weather into account when planning your activity over the following days. For example, avoid exposing yourself to cold or icy outdoor conditions if you are at higher risk of cold-related illness or falls.
- Consider how you can access essential medication and groceries without putting yourself at risk, for example by getting supplies in early, having them delivered, or asking a friend or neighbour for help.
- Check that the heating in your home is working properly, that your home is warm enough and that at least one room meets recommended room temperatures (see table below).
- Consider whether any friends and family could benefit from some additional support during the cold snap.
- Discuss with neighbours, community, friends and relatives about clearing snow and ice from in front of your house and public walkways nearby if you are unable to do this yourself.
Families, friends and carers of people in high-risk groups, such as older people and those with respiratory conditions, should check on them regularly during the severe weather period.
There are a number of simple actions that those at risk can take to protect against the ill-effects of cold weather. These include the following:
During the day
- Avoid going outdoors unless necessary – but keep active and moving around indoors as much as you can.
- Keep your home at recommended indoor temperatures (see table below).
- If you cannot heat all your rooms, keep your living room warm throughout the day and heat your bedroom before going to bed.
- Set the timer on your heating to come on before you get up and switch off when you go to bed.
- In very cold weather, rather than turn the thermostat up, set the heating to come on earlier so that you will not be cold while you wait for your home to heat up.
During the night
- If you use a fire or heater in your bedroom during winter, open the window or door a little at night for ventilation.
- Keep your bedroom at recommended indoor night-time temperatures (see table below).
- Never use an electric blanket and hot water bottle together as you could electrocute yourself.
- If you have an electric blanket, check what type it is – some are designed only to warm the bed before you get in and should not to be used throughout the night.
- Make sure that your electric blanket is safe by getting it tested every three years by an expert. The Fire Brigade and Trading Standards can test your electric blanket for safety. If buying a new electric blanket look for CE, BEAB or IMQ safety marking.
Recommended indoor temperatures
|21°C (70˚F)||Minimum recommended daytime temperature for rooms occupied during the day|
|18°C (65˚F)||Minimum recommended night-time temperature for bedrooms. No health risk, though may feel cold|
- Wearing plenty of thin layers is warmer than one thick one.
- Put on a coat, hat, scarf, gloves and warm, non-slip shoes or boots when you go outside.
- Wear clothes made of wool, cotton or fleecy synthetic fibres.
- Stay warm in bed with bed socks, thermal underwear and a nightcap or headscarf.
Manage your energy use
- Shut and draughtproof outside doors.
- Draw your curtains at dusk to help keep the heat generated inside your rooms.
- Make sure that your radiators are not obstructed by curtains or furniture.
- Boil only the water you need rather than filling the kettle completely.
- Do not use a gas cooker or oven to heat your home as this is inefficient and there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
More information is available from the Keep Warm Keep Well web page: