Ways to stay warm and safe this winter

It's important to keep your home warm during the coldest months / Photo: Szasz-Fabian Ilka Erika

It's important to keep your home warm during the coldest months / Photo: Szasz-Fabian Ilka Erika - Credit: Archant

Prolonged periods of cold weather can be dangerous, especially for the very young, very old or those with chronic diseases. Here are some tips to stay warm and well.

The frosty fields can be a pretty sight, but keep in mind the risks of cold weather for the most vul

The frosty fields can be a pretty sight, but keep in mind the risks of cold weather for the most vulnerable / Photo: Peter Raymond Llewellyn - Credit: Archant

Following the Met Office warning of cold weather across the country, there are precautions we can all take to reduce our risk of injury, sickness and discomfort.

Stay healthy

• Get a flu vaccination to protect yourself and others from influenza - free to people over 65 and those in other eligible groups.

• Eliminate your sleep debt: “On average, we sleep six-and-a-half hours a night, much less than the seven to nine hours recommended,” says Jessica Alexander, spokesperson at The Sleep Council in winter, but we naturally sleep more because of the longer nights. “It’s perfectly natural to adopt hibernating habits when the weather turns cold,” says Jessica. “Use the time to catch up.”

• Try new activities for the whole family - Don’t use the cold winter months as an excuse to stay in and lounge around. Instead, get out with the whole family to try out a new activity – maybe ice skating, or taking a bracing winter walk on the beach or through the park.

Regular exercise helps control your weight, boost your immune system, and is a good way to break the tension that can build if the family is constantly cooped up inside the house.

• Visit NHS Choices 10 winter illnesses for information about how to avoid or be prepared to deal with cold weather ailments such as colds, painful joints, cold sores, norovirus, asthma.

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Eat well to keep warm

You will be less vulnerable to illnesses and to the cold if you eat healthily. Try to:

• Have at least one hot meal a day

• Include five portions of fruit or vegetables in your diet

• Eat regular meals and have plenty of hot drinks

• Have a hearty breakfast - warm porridge is particularly recommended.

Have heating and cooking appliances checked

• Avoid unnecessary cold weather breakdowns by having heating and cooking appliances checked or serviced.

• Check if you are eligible for inclusion on the priority services register operated by your water and power suppliers.

• Never use a gas cooker or oven to heat your home.

• Plan ahead to book supplies of fuel if you have deliveries.

Planning for the effects of bad weather

Take steps to plan for and reduce the effects of very cold weather.

Your home

• Request a grit bin refill if necessary from your local council.

• Have some ash, cat litter or grit ready if you need it to put on icy paths to your door.

• Take action to insulate your home or to prepare for increased fuel bills.

Travel

• Find out which routes in your area are regularly gritted in icy weather.

• Check weather forecasts and travel information before travelling in bad winter weather and follow advice.

Avoid having to go out in very cold or icy weather

• Keep some dried or tinned foodstuffs so that you don’t have to go out if it is very cold or icy.

• Keep spare medication in case you are unable to go out - plan ahead with repeat prescriptions.

• Check you have adequate fuel supplies or have requested deliveries if necessary.

• Keep a note of contacts and neighbours you could ring if you are unable to get out because of floods or very cold weather.

Keep up to date with the weather

• Keep up to date with the Met Office’s National Severe Weather Warnings and What to do in severe weather page.

• Listen to local radio and television for cold weather warnings.

Financial help to heat your home

Check you are receiving any payments you may be eligible for to help with making your home more energy efficient, improving your heating or help with your bills.

Cold weather payment - may be available if you’re getting certain benefits. Payments are made when your local temperature is either recorded as, or forecast to be, an average of zero degrees Celsius or below over 7 consecutive days.

Winter Fuel Payment - This is a tax-free benefit to help pay for heating during winter. You could be eligible if you have reached the qualifying age and you normally live in Great Britain. For winter 2015/14 people born on or before 5 July 1952 will have reached the qualifying age.

• Find out from your council if you could get help insulating or making other improvements to your home to reduce your heating bills.

Warm Home Discount Scheme is a government scheme aimed at helping the UK’s most vulnerable customers with their electricity bills. The scheme is funded by energy suppliers. Use the link to find out more about the suppliers taking part and whether you are eligible.

Help from your energy supplier - see if you can claim help for energy-saving improvements to your home if you’re on certain benefits

• Use GOV.UK’s energy-grants calculator to find out what you might be eligible for.

During cold weather: Keep warm at home

18C is key. If you are over 65, have reduced mobility or have a health condition such as heart or lung disease, you should heat your home to at least 18C and make sure you wear enough clothes to stay warm.

• Use an electric blanket or a hot water bottle to keep warm in bed, but never use both together.

• Wear warm clothes - several layers to trap warmth are better than a single heavy one.

• Eat and drink regularly, particularly warm drinks.

• Try and keep active - move around at least every hour. If you can’t get up, do some gentle exercises in your chair to keep your limbs moving.

Keep the warmth in your home

• Heavy curtains act as insulation - always draw them as it gets dark to keep the warmth in.

• Use draught excluders to reduce cold draughts but be aware of the need to keep good ventilation.

• Insulate hot water cylinders and pipes.

Be safe in your home and outside in cold weather

• Practice good fire safety if you have open fires - sweep your chimney, use a fireguard, make sure the fire is put out before you leave the room.

• Have a smoke alarm on every level of your home and test it regularly.

• Never leave lit candles unattended.

• Keep electric heaters away from curtains and furniture and do not use for drying clothes.

• Always follow instructions for electric blankets, and never use a hot water bottle at the same time, even if the blanket is switched off.

• Protect cold water pipes from freezing to avoid burst pipes.

• Make sure you have sturdy shoes with a good grip for icy paths and pavements.

Look out for friends, relatives, neighbours

• Check on older neighbours or relatives, especially those living alone or who have serious illnesses, to make sure they are safe, warm and well.

• Find out about or set up local and community schemes and networks to keep people in your community safe.

• Read the government’s advice about clearing snow and ice on footpaths.

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Thanks to the Herefordshire council and NHS websites.