Met Office cold weather alert - advice on staying well

The Met Office has recently issued the following alert: Cold weather alert - Level 3

There is a 99% probability of severe cold weather, icy conditions and heavy snow between 9.00am on Thursday 14 January and midday on Tuesday 19 January in parts of England.

This weather could increase the health risks to vulnerable people, especially the very young, very old or those with chronic diseases (for example asthma) and health conditions, and disrupt the delivery of services.

The alert indicates there is a 90% of severe cold weather/icy conditions/heavy snow up to midday on Tuesday 19 January in the South West.

Although there are usually fewer days at these low temperatures, the risk of negative health impacts increases as the temperature falls. Reactive action to prevent harm to health and manage business continuity by services would be proportionately more important were we to experience an extremely cold spell for a prolonged period. Aside from cold temperatures, snow and ice are associated with an increase in injuries and severe disruption to services.


Level 3: Severe weather action

This is triggered as soon as the weather described in level 2 actually happens (the  Level 2 alert indicates there is a 60% chance of severe cold weather/icy conditions/heavy snow) . It indicates that severe winter weather is now happening and an impact on health services is expected.


Be prepared for the cold weather

We’re all likely to feel the chill in winter, but cold weather can lead to very serious health problems, such as heart attacks, strokes or pneumonia, and sometimes the cold weather can even kill – especially if you have a long-term health condition or are 65 or over. There are several things that you can do to help yourself stay healthy in winter.


Get a free flu jab

Contact your GP or pharmacist if you think you, or someone you care for, might qualify for a free flu jab There are four flu leaflets: one general, one for pregnancy, one about children and one for people with learning disabilities.

Free flu vaccinations are available for those who:

  • are aged 65 or older
  • are aged two, three or four years old
  • are children in school years 1 and 2
  • are pregnant
  • are aged six months to 64 years old and
    • have a serious medical condition such as chronic heart, lung, neurological, liver or kidney disease or diabetes
    • have a weakened immune system due to HIV or treatments that suppress the immune system such as chemotherapy
    • have had a stroke or transient ischaemic attack
  • are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility (not prison or university halls)
  • are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill

If you live in England you can visit NHS Choices for more information about flu.


Eat Well

Eating regular meals will help keep your energy levels up during winter.

  • Have plenty of hot food and drinks.
  • Plan your meals and keep your diet as varied as possible. Aim to include your daily five portions of
  • fruit and veg. Remember that tinned and frozen fruit and vegetables count towards your five a day.
  • Stock up on tinned and frozen foods, so that you don’t have to go out too much when it’s cold or icy.


Look after yourself

  • Don’t delay in getting treatment for minor winter ailments like colds or sore throats. Visit your local pharmacist for advice on treatment before it gets worse so you can recover quicker.
  • Wear lots of thin layers – clothes made from cotton, wool or fleecy fibres are particularly good and help to maintain body heat.
  • Wear shoes with a good grip to prevent slips and falls when walking outside.
  • When you’re indoors, try not to sit still for more than an hour or so. Get up, stretch your legs and
    make yourself a warm drink.


Heating your home effectively and safely

Some of these heating tips may seem obvious, but they can make a big difference when it comes to protecting your health and reducing your fuel bills.

  • Heating your home to at least 18ºC (65°F) in winter 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 (65°F) could be good for your health.
  • If you are under the age of 65, active and wearing appropriate clothing, you may wish to heat your home to a temperature at which you are comfortable, even if it is slightly lower than 18ºC (65°F).
  • Overnight in winter, people who are 65 and over or who have pre-existing health conditions, may find bedroom temperatures of at least 18ºC (65°F) are good for their health; this may be less important if you are a healthy adult under 65 and have appropriate clothing and bedding.
  • Set your heating to come on just before you get up and switch off after you’ve gone to bed. If it is very cold, set your heating to come on earlier and turn off later rather than turning the thermostat up.
  • Remember to close curtains and shut doors to keep heat in the rooms you use most.


Financial help to heat your home

There are grants, benefits and sources of advice available to make your home more energy efficient,
improve your heating or help with bills. It’s worthwhile claiming what you are entitled to.


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 2015/16 people born on or before 5 January 1953 will have reached the qualifying age.

To find out more about Winter Fuel Payments, call 03459 15 15 15 (8.30am-4.30pm Mon–Fri, textphone
0845 601 5613) or visit 


Warm Home Discount scheme

The Warm Home Discount scheme helps low-income and vulnerable households with energy costs.
Participating energy companies will be providing a discount of £140 on the electricity bills of certain customers in winter 2015/16.


Help and advice

Citizens Advice

Your local bureau will be able to give you advice on benefits, heating, grants and debt. 
Look under ‘C’ in the Yellow Pages or visit for more information or to find your local bureau.


The Home Heat Helpline

This is a free national helpline offering access to grants for free home insulation and reduced or ‘social’ tariffs from energy suppliers, as well as advice on managing your bills and reducing your energy use.
Call the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99 (9am–5.30pm Mon–Fri,) or visit


Age UK

Age UK offers advice and information for people in later life on a range of issues including welfare and
disability benefits, health and social care, housing and help with heating. Local Age UK branches are
independent charities which offer a variety of services, including benefit checks, exercise and social activities, lunch clubs and day centres.

For free information or contact details for your local Age UK branch, call Age UK Advice on 0800 169 6565 (8am–7pm, seven days a week). Or you can visit

Information from the HM Government's Keep Warm Keep Well Booklet.

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