Being cold isn’t just uncomfortable it can be bad for your health. Sitting or sleeping in a cold room is not good for you and increases the risk of heart attacks, stroke and breathing problems.
‘It’s really important as the cold weather starts that people ensure they think about staying warm over winter. The impact on health can be severe especially for elderly and the very young,’ explains Dr Majid Azeb, a GP at Southowram Surgery and Vice Clinical Chair of Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group.
Public Health England and the MetOffice have launched campaigns to raise awareness of some of the simple steps people can take to keep warm this winter.
- Heating your home to at least 18°C is particularly important if you have reduced mobility, are 65 and over, or have a health condition, such as heart or lung disease. Having room temperatures slightly over 18°C could be good for your health.
- If you are under 65, active and wearing appropriate clothing, you may feel comfortable at room temperatures slightly lower than 18C.
- Overnight, people who are 65 and over or who have pre-existing health conditions, may find bedroom temperatures of at least 18C are good for their health; this may be less important if you are a healthy adult under 65 and have appropriate clothing and bedding.
- Keep your bedroom windows closed on a winter’s night; breathing cold air can increase the risk of chest infections.
- Food is a vital source of energy and helps to keep your body warm so have plenty of hot food and drinks.
- Aim to include five daily portions of fruit and vegetables. Tinned and frozen vegetables count towards your five a day.
- Stock up on tinned and frozen foods so you don’t have to go out too much when it’s cold or icy.
- Exercise is good for you all year round and it can keep you warm in winter.
- Wear a few layers of thin clothing rather than one thick layer; this will trap the heat better to keep you warm. Socks and hats are great too and are a good idea to keep you warm in bed. Thin layers of clothes made from cotton, wool or fleecy fibres are particularly good and maintain body heat.
- Wear good-fitting slippers with a good grip indoors and shoes with a good grip outside to prevent slips, trips and falls.
- Make sure you order any prescription medication early so you don’t run out over the festive period. It’s also a good idea to have a stock of self-care medicine, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, and a fully stocked first-aid kit so you can treat minor illnesses and injuries at home.
- Cover yourself with a blanket or shawl if you are sitting for long periods, this will help keep you warm. Put your feet up if you can; the air may be colder near the floor.
- Keep moving if you can, this will help keep you warm. Try not to sit for more than an hour – get up and walk around, make a hot drink and spread housework throughout the day. If walking is a problem try moving your arms and legs whilst sitting or wiggling your fingers and toes.
‘We are also encouraging people to take the time to check on their elderly neighbours and relatives especially those living alone or who have serious illnesses to make sure they are safe, warm and well,’ continues Dr Azeb.
‘Simple things like ensuring that they have a stock of self-care medication in case they are unable to go out as well as basic groceries can make all the difference to their health over winter.’
For more information about staying well over winter visit https://www.nhs.uk/staywell
For information on where to find your local GP practice, pharmacy or walk-in centre visit the nhs.uk website.