Stay Well This Winter
Cold weather can make some health problems worse and even lead to serious complications, especially if you are 65 or older, or if you have a long-term health condition.
Who's most at risk from cold weather?
Some people are more vulnerable to the effects of cold weather. This includes:
- people aged 65 and older
- babies and children under the age of 5
- people on a low income (so cannot afford heating)
- people who have a long-term health condition
- disabled people
- pregnant women
- people who have a mental health condition
Get advice if you feel unwell
If you are 65 or over, or in one of the other at-risk groups, see a pharmacist as soon as you feel unwell, even it it's just a cough or a cold.
Pharmacists can give you treatment advice for a range of minor illnesses. They will also tell you if you need to see a doctor.
The sooner you get advice, the sooner you are likely to get better.
To find your nearest Pharmacy, visit the NHS Service Finder.
If you need medical advice when a pharmacy is closed, call: 111 or go to 111.nhs.uk
Norovirus (vomiting bug)
Norovirus, also called the "winter vomiting bug", is a stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea. It can be very unpleasant, but usually goes away in about 2 days.
The main symptoms of norovirus are:
- feeling sick (nausea)
- being sick (vomiting)
You may also have:
- a high temperature of 38C or above
- a headache
- aching arms and legs
The symptoms start suddenly within 1 to 2 days of being infected.
How to treat norovirus yourself
You can usually treat yourself or your child at home.
You should start to feel better in 2 to 3 days.
Stay off school or work until the symptoms have stopped for 2 days. Also avoid visiting anyone in hospital during this time.
This is when you're most infectious.
How norovirus is spread
Norovirus can spread very easily.
You can catch norovirus from:
- close contact with someone with norovirus
- touching surfaces or objects that have the virus on them, then touching your mouth
- eating food that's been prepared or handled by someone with norovirus
Washing your hands frequently with soap and water is the best way to stop it spreading. Alcohol hand gels do not kill norovirus
Get a flu jab
Flu can lead to serious illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, and even death in vulnerable people. You are more at risk if you are older, have a long-term condition, or are pregnant.
Make sure you get your free flu jab if:
- you are 65 and over
- you have a long-term health condition
- you are pregnant
Ask for the flu jab at your GP surgery or at a local pharmacy.
Some children and some carers can also get a free flu jab. Find out more about the flu vaccine, including who should have it.
If you're 65 or over, you are also eligible for the pneumococcal vaccine, which will help protect you from pneumonia.
Keep your home warm
Follow these tips to keep you and your family warm and well at home:
- if you're not very mobile, are 65 or over, or have a health condition, such as heart or lung disease, heat your home to at least 18C
- keep your bedroom at 18C all night if you can – and keep the bedroom window closed
- if you're under 65, healthy and active, you can safely have your home cooler than 18C, as long as you're comfortable
- use a hot water bottle or electric blanket to keep warm in bed – but do not use both at the same time
- have at least 1 hot meal a day – eating regularly helps keep you warm
- have hot drinks regularly
- to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), babies should sleep in rooms heated to between 16C and 20C
- draw curtains at dusk and keep doors closed to block out draughts
- get your heating system checked regularly by a qualified professional
Help with heating costs
You may be able to claim financial and practical help with heating your home. Grants available include the Winter Fuel Payment and the Cold Weather Payment.
For more information on how to reduce your bills and make your home more energy efficient, go to the government's Simple Energy Advice website. Or call the Simple Energy Advice helpline on 0800 444 202.
You can also find advice in the section on financial help to heat your home in the Keep Warm, Keep Well leaflet.
It's worth claiming all the benefits you're entitled to as soon as winter begins.
Look in on vulnerable neighbours and relatives
Check on older neighbours and relatives, and those with heart or breathing (respiratory) problems, to make sure they:
- are safe and well
- are warm enough, especially at night
- have stocks of food and medicines so they do not need to go out during very cold weather
If you're worried about a relative or elderly neighbour, contact your local council or call the Age UK helpline on 0800 678 1602 (8am to 7pm every day).
If you're concerned that the person may be suffering from hypothermia, contact NHS 111.
Get advice on keeping warm and well.