Keep Warm and Keep Well this winter

Somerset’s public health advisors and family doctors are reminding elderly people and those people with long-term conditions, to keep warm if they want to keep well this winter.

The seasonal cold and damp weather at this time of year can take its toll on the health of most vulnerable members of the community, like people living with chronic lung disease, heart disease and asthma.

As the Met Office predicts colder weather on-the-way, checking home heating systems, keeping heating levels up and reducing cold and draughts could all be simple ways to reduce your risk of ill health this winter.

Dr Ed Ford, a Somerset GP and Chairman of Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, said:  “People who are elderly, frail and living with heart and breathing problems are amongst those at greatest risk of becoming ill over winter. It is this section of the community we most frequently see experiencing health complications and needing to be admitted to hospital. Keeping your home heated to at least 18°C,  particularly if you are not very mobile,  have a long term illness or are over 65 years old is important.  It’s also important to have hot food and drinks throughout the day and move around at least every hour.”

Trudi Grant, Somerset County Council’s Director of Public Health, said:  “With the temperature likely to drop in the coming days we may find frost or even snow on the roads and pavements.  Slipping or falling on icy pavements can cause serious injury for the elderly so checking the weather forecast and avoiding the temptation to go into the garden and clear frosty or snow covered paths makes sense.  Many people help their elderly neighbours and offering to clear paths can reduce their risk of injury.”

Here are a few tips on staying warm and well this winter:

1. Wrap up warm
Dress in layers and wear a hat, gloves and scarf. Clothes made from wool, cotton or fleecy fabrics are warmest. When you’re indoors, wear warm socks and slippers to keep your feet cosy.

2. Keep the cold out
Close doors and use a keyhole cover to block draughts. Buy thermal linings for curtains to keep the heat in.

3. Don’t use alcohol to keep warm
Avoid drinking alcohol before going, or when, outside. It makes you feel warm because blood vessels in the skin expand, but this draws heat away from your vital organs.

4. Check your heating
Have your heating system serviced regularly to make sure it works well.

5. Maintain the temperature
Keep your main living room at 18–21°C (64–70°F) and the rest of your house at 16°C (61°F) at least. If you can’t heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room during the day and the bedroom just before you go to sleep. In bed, use either a hot water bottle or an electric blanket.

6. Have warming food and drinks
Have regular hot drinks and food such as porridge, soups and stews. Check out some healthy recipes on the NHS Choices website to get more ideas for warming, healthy dishes.

7. Stay active
Keep as active as possible to boost your circulation. Move around at least once an hour and avoid sitting still for long periods. Even light exercise will help keep you warm. When you do sit down, put your feet up as it’s coldest nearest the ground.

8. Check what you support you can get
Don’t miss out on benefits. Depending on your circumstances you may get the Winter Fuel or Cold Weather Payments automatically. If you don’t, visit: https://www.gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment or call 03459 15 15 15 to see if you’re eligible.

You may also be entitled to claim an Affordable Warmth Grant, which could help with heating and insulation improvements.  For more information, call the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234 or visit: https://www.gov.uk/energy-company-obligation

More advice is available from:

Age UK – Winter wrapped up. A guide to keeping warm and well this winter
See their free guide: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/information-guides/ageukig27_winter_wrapped_up_inf.pdf

British Heart Foundation, web site:
https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-matters-magazine/medical/beat-the-cold/keeping-warm

Keep warm, Keep Well
https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/winterhealth/Pages/KeepWarmKeepWell.aspx