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General & Seasonal News

Cold weather warning: healthcare leaders urge residents to keep warm and look after those most vulnerable

By 8th January 2024No Comments

As the MET office and UKHSA issues a cold weather alert and temperatures drop across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, healthcare leaders are urging residents to stay well by keeping warm and looking out for others.

Cold weather can affect anyone but particularly those considered at risk. Local health leaders are urging anyone aged 65 years and over, those with a long-term health condition, anyone who lives alone and may be unable to care for themselves or those with reduced mobility to stay well, keep warm and access the services available to them during cold weather.

Rosi Shepherd, Chief Nursing Officer at NHS Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire ICB, said:

“It is important to keep warm as the weather gets colder. The drop in temperature increases the risks of colds, flu and more serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression – particularly for our more vulnerable residents.

“By wrapping up warm and keeping homes heated to at least 18°C you can help to stay well this winter.

“Local authorities have lots of information about how to access financial help and support through the winter months and have a number of warm spaces open for residents.

“Please try to check in on elderly relatives and neighbours, or anyone struggling, and offer support and advice on keeping warm and accessing services.”

Here are five ways to stay warm during cold weather:
1. Keep homes heated – the Government advises that homes should be heated to at least 18°C and are prepared for incoming cold weather. Support is available to people struggling to heat homes through the household support fund. Bristol City Council, North Somerset Council and South Gloucestershire Council also have guidance on keeping homes warm.

2. Keeping the heat in – apply draft proof measures around the home to keep as much heat in as possible, including keeping windows and curtains closed.

3. Wrap up warm – apply additional layers of clothing as the temperature drops, try to avoid adding one thick layer but rather multiple thinner layers to provide better insulation.

4. Access warm spaces – Bristol City Council, North Somerset Council and South Gloucestershire Council have several community-based warm spaces where people can stay warm, access support with the cost of living and socialise with others.

5. Check on elderly neighbours – look after those most vulnerable and encourage them to keep their home warm, particularly in areas they use most. If they need to go outdoors, communicate the importance of wrapping up warm and wearing shoes that provide a good grip to limit the risk of falls.

For older people, a little bit of activity now and then is also a great way to keep warm, as well as help maintain strength and mobility. Try not to sit still for more than an hour at a time. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to keeping moving, so it’s important you do something that feels right – and safe – for you.

As well as keeping warm there are a number of preventative measures people can take to reduce the impact of cold weather. Healthcare leaders encourage those who are eligible to get vaccinated against flu and Covid-19, as vaccination provides the best possible protection against both illnesses.

Dr Geeta Iyer, Clinical Lead for the BNSSG Vaccination Programme, said:

“Vaccination is one of our strongest defences against winter illnesses like flu and Covid-19. If you are eligible, we strongly encourage you to take up the offer of both vaccinations.

“There’s lots of self-care information on the ICB website for those common winter illnesses and if you do need to get expert help, pharmacies, minor injuries units, and GPs are open as usual.
“We know that this time of year can be really challenging for our mental health too. If you’re struggling, please reach out for help.”

Having a well-stocked medicine cabinet throughout winter can help manage minor illnesses, such as a minor cough or cold. It is especially important ahead of cold weather to ensure sufficient stock of medicines to continue to stay well as the temperature drops. People can visit local pharmacists for advice on the treatment of common winter illnesses. The NHS also has a range of apps that can provide advice for managing conditions at home.

NHS services are available to those who feel unwell or need to be signposted to the right care. If residents are unsure which care is right for them NHS 111 can help advise, either by contacting them by phone or online at 111.nhs.uk.

For more advice on staying well this winter, please see our website and the NHS website where you will find lots of guidance, tips and useful links.