Keeping safe during Winter

Winter can be a difficult time. Long dark evenings and bad weather can make it harder to go out and the cold can affect your health. Being prepared can help you stay healthy and safe.

Looking after yourself

Some simple precautions can help you stay healthy in winter.  If you are going outside:

  • wrap up warm
  • wear layers, which help to trap warm air and keep you warmer than one thick jumper
  • wear a hat, gloves and scarf
  • wear shoes with good grip and a warm lining.

If you have a respiratory or heart problem, stay inside when the weather is very cold.

Keep grit and/or salt to put on your path.  Some councils provide free bags or you can get it from a DIY store.

Keep your cupboards and freezer well stocked in case you are unable to go out and make sure that you eat a healthy diet:

  • have hot meals and drinks throughout the day
  • eat plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • drink more milk and eat dairy products to boost your immune system and help prevent colds

Try to stay active and go outside if it isn’t too icy or cold. If you can’t go out, don’t sit still for more than an hour. Moving around can help to keep you warm.

Staying healthy

Make sure you have a flu jab every year. It’s free if you are 65 or over, a carer or have certain health conditions. Contact your GP or ask your local pharmacist to arrange one.

If you are over 65, you are also eligible for a pneumo jab which helps protect against pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia. This is usually a one-off jab.

Keep your medicine cabinet stocked up with a range of every day medicines in case you get ill, such as:

  • painkillers
  • cough medicine
  • throat lozenges
  • sore throat sprays

Your pharmacist can give you advice if you are feeling unwell and some pharmacies operate a minor ailment scheme, which may enable you to get medicine for some minor illnesses. These are free of charge if you don’t normally pay for prescriptions.  Some pharmacies also offer a home delivery service for repeat prescriptions.

Lack of sunshine in winter can mean you don’t get enough vitamin D. Other sources of vitamin D, apart from sunlight, include:

  • oily fish, such as salmon or mackerel
  • eggs
  • meat
  • some margarine
  • some cereals and dairy products

It is recommended that all adults consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement during autumn and winter. Anyone at risk of vitamin D deficiency - such as people who aren't able to get outdoors much or live in a care home - should take a daily supplement throughout the year. Ask your GP or pharmacist for advice before taking any supplements.

Keeping your home warm

Being cold can be bad for your health, increasing the risk of flu or more serious problems, such as a heart attack, stroke or hypothermia. You should keep yourself and your home warm. Tips include:

  • check the thermostat – your living room should be around 21°C (70°F) and other rooms at least 18°C (64°F)
  • keep your bedroom at 18°C (64°F) at night, and keep the window closed
  • draw the curtains to keep warmth in
  • keep furniture away from radiators so the heat can circulate
  • put draught excluders around doors and windows
  • use a hot water bottle or electric blanket to warm up your bed. Never use both together, as this can be dangerous.

Insulating your home can make it much warmer and save money on bills. 

You may also be eligible for support to make your home more energy efficient. Contact the Energy Saving Trust for more information about the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme.

Help with costs

Make sure that you are claiming all the benefits you’re entitled to. You probably already get a Winter Fuel Payment if you were born before 6 August 1953, but there are other benefits as well.

If you get Pension Credit, you should automatically get a cold weather payment of £25 when the temperature goes below 0°C (32°F) for seven days in a row between November and March.

If you receive Guarantee Pension Credit, you may qualify for a discount on your electricity bill. Contact your supplier or the Warm Home Discount Scheme to find out more.

Check that you are on the best fuel tariff. You may be able to save money by switching energy supplier.

If you are struggling to pay your energy bills, remember that you can’t be cut off by your energy supplier between October and March if everyone in your home is of State Retirement Pension age. Contact your supplier to set up a repayment plan.

Be prepared for a power cut

Bad winter weather can sometimes cause damage and disruption to your gas or electricity supply, so it’s a good idea to be prepared for a power cut or gas leak.

  • Know your free emergency numbers - in a power cut dial 105 or, for a gas emergency, dial 0800 111999.
  • Prepare your home – keep a torch handy and get your appliances serviced by a Gas Safe registered engineer to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast and, if you have a power cut or a gas emergency, check on your neighbours.
  • Join your supplier's Priority Services Register (PSR). People on the PSR may receive support in a power cut, such as alternative heating or cooking facilities. You can sign up to a PSR if you're of State Pension age, are disabled or have a long-term medical condition, have a hearing or sight impairment or are in a vulnerable situation.

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