The increased cost of living and the rise in energy prices mean more people may struggle to keep warm and well this winter. Read our top tips below on keeping warm, and how you can get advice and help with your heating costs.
Cold weather can make some health problems worse and even lead to serious complications, especially if you are 65 or older, or if you have a long-term health condition.
Michelle Grant, Assistant Practitioner from North Cumbria Integrated Care Trust’s East Community Respiratory Team, said: “Being cold affects our body’s ability to fight of infection and weakens the immune system. This becomes more problematic if you already have a long-term health condition. The heart and lungs have to work much harder; this in turn can worsen existing health conditions particularly people with poor circulation.
“We need to be mindful of avoiding crowded and enclosed spaces, taking extra precautions when using public transport or visiting the supermarket. This is particularly for those vulnerable to infections this winter after shielding in the recent pandemic.
“Also, for example, take into consideration air quality i.e. smoky environments - or even something as simple as drying clothes in enclosed spaces - can irritate the airways. Dampness can release spores which can cause more irritation to the lungs.”
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 heating)
- 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 are 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.
You can get help and advice from:
- 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’re not sure what to do
- The sooner you get advice, the sooner you are likely to get better.
Call your pharmacy or contact them online before going in person. You can get medicines delivered or ask someone to collect them.
Get a flu vaccine
Flu will often get better on its own, but it can make some people seriously ill. It's important to get the flu vaccine if you're advised to.
The flu vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine. It's offered every year on the NHS to help protect people at risk of flu and its complications.
The best time to have the flu vaccine is in the autumn before flu starts spreading. But you can get the vaccine later.
Find out more about the:
If you're 65 or over, you are also eligible for the pneumococcal vaccine, which will help protect you from pneumonia.
Keep your home warm
Follow these tips to keep you and your family warm and well at home:
- if you're not very mobile, are 65 or over, or have a health condition, such as heart or lung disease, heat your home to at least 18C
- keep your bedroom at 18C all night if you can – and keep bedroom window closed
- if you're under 65, healthy and active, you can safely have your home cooler than 18C, as long as you're comfortable
- use a hot water bottle or electric blanket to keep warm in bed – but do not use both at the same time
- have at least 1 hot meal a day – eating regularly helps keep you warm
- have hot drinks regularly
- to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), babies should sleep in rooms heated to between 16C and 20C
- draw curtains at dusk and keep doors closed to block out draughts
- get your heating system checked regularly by a qualified professional.
Help with heating costs
You may be able to claim financial and practical help with heating your home. Grants available include the Winter Fuel Payment and the Cold Weather Payment.
For more information on how to reduce your bills and make your home more energy efficient, go to the government's Simple Energy Advice website, or call the Simple Energy Advice helpline on 0800 444 202.
You can also find out about heating and housing benefits on GOV.UK.
It's worth claiming all the benefits you're entitled to as soon as winter begins.
Look in on vulnerable neighbours and relatives
Check on older neighbours and relatives, and those with heart or breathing (respiratory) problems, to make sure they:
- are safe and well
- are warm enough, especially at night
- have stocks of food and medicines so they do not need to go out during very cold weather
If you're worried about a relative or elderly neighbour, contact your local council or call the Age UK helpline on 0800 678 1602 (8am to 7pm every day).
If you're concerned the person may have hypothermia, contact NHS 111.
To help people keep warm during the winter Warm Spots are being set up throughout the county. Ima)
There are now Warm Spot venues in all corners of the county, operating from village halls, community centres, churches, libraries, pubs, and sports centres, some open every day and some just a few hours a week. Everyone is welcome and you will not need to give any explanation of why you are there.
As a minimum, a Warm Spot will offer a warm space, a warm welcome, someone on hand to talk to if you wish, and, in most cases, a hot drink (free or at cost). But many are offering a much wider range of facilities, activities and support.
Warm Spots is a joint project, led by Cumbria County Council, ACTion with Communities in Cumbria, Churches Together in Cumbria, Cumbria Community Foundation and Cumbria CVS.
Click here to view the interactive map of Cumbria's warm spots.