Getting the flu jab is the easiest way to start protecting your health over the cold snap and vaccinations are available from GPs and pharmacies.
You are eligible for the FREE jab if you:
- Are aged 65 and over
- Are pregnant
- Are any age and have an underlying health condition (particularly long-term heart or respiratory disease)
- Are a child aged two, three and four plus children in school years one, two and three.
- Receive a carer's allowance or are the main carer of an older person or a person with a disability.
- Are a frontline health and social care worker
- People aged 65 and over
Also eligible are those with long-term health conditions such as:
- Chronic heart disease or heart failure
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Severe asthma, emphysema and other respiratory diseases
- Neurological disease
- A weakened immune system due to HIV, AIDS or cancer treatment
- Asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen
Remember, most coughs, colds, sore throats and other winter bugs can’t be treated by antibiotics so call 111 or speak to a pharmacist before contacting your GP. Pharmacists can help advise on over-the-counter remedies and what to do how to look after yourself until your illness passes.
- If you are already taking medication, make sure your repeat prescriptions are in place or that you have safe levels of spare medication in case the weather stops you from going out.
- If you are concerned that cold weather may make your condition worse, speak to your GP about self-management over winter and if you need a medicine review.
- Keeping warm is important for maintaining good winter health.
- Exercise can keep you warm in winter because it helps maintain blood circulation. It’s important not to sit still for too long. Move around at least once an hour if possible.
- Heating your home to at least 18°C in winter poses minimal risk to your health when you are wearing suitable clothing.
- Keep your home well ventilated
- Use your electric blanket as instructed but don’t use a hot water bottle with it
- Don’t use a gas cooker or oven to heat your home; there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
- Make sure you have a supply of heating oil or LPG or sold fuel if you are not on mains gas or electricity
- Keep yourself well-fed and hydrated with at least one hot meal a day. Food is vital for energy and energy keeps you warm.
- Aim to include five daily portions of fruit and vegetables (tinned and frozen vegetables count!)
- Several thin layers is better than one thick layer for insulation, and remove each layer as appropriate. Clothes made from cotton, wool or fleecy fibres are the best for maintaining body heat.
Financial and other help with heating your home.
- You can also check whether you may be entitled to financial aid for heating your home.
- People born on or before 5 April 1954 could automatically receive a Winter Fuel Payment by December if they receive State Pension or another social security benefit (but not Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction, Child Benefit or Universal Credit). If unsure, contact telephone details are available from the GOV.UK website.
- Cold Weather Payment (payment is automatic) are different to Winter Fuel Payments in that they are only paid if the average temperature is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below for 7 consecutive days. An automatic payment is made if you are eligible for specific benefits. Find out more from the GOV.UK website.
- Help with heating bills may be available from the Warm Home Discount Scheme if you get your electricity from specific suppliers. To find out if you meet eligibility criteria for a discounted bill, go to the GOV.UK website to find out which suppliers are taking part.
- The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) requires certain energy suppliers to fund efficiency improvements in the homes of some customers. To find out if your supplier can help you, you need to ask them directly. Free and impartial energy efficiency information through a number of consumer advice services such as The Energy Saving Advice Service in England (0300 123 1234).
Thinking Works provide free home visits including basic health screening and a review of how to make a home more efficient. If you are; over 65; living in a cold home or experiencing high fuel bills, you may be eligible for the service.
In addition, the service offers free help to:
- Get heating and insulation grants and loans from Kingston Council
- Show you ways to make your home warmer
- Show you how to reduce fuel bills
- Tell you about other services like your local Handy Person
- Install free devices to help you save on your water and energy use
To book your free visit call Freephone 0800 118 2327.
Exercise can keep you warm in winter because it helps maintain blood circulation.
- It’s important not to sit still for too long. Move around at least once an hour if possible.
- Physical activity keeps the blood circulating, even wiggling fingers or toes will help
- Doing strength and balance exercises each day is a good way to reduce risk of falls.
When you go out:
- Plan extra time, walk slowly and take more care of ice and wet leaves, concentrating on the path ahead of you
- Wear sturdy slippers with a good grip indoors and shoes with a good grip outside to prevent trips, slips and falls
- Use handrails where they are provided
- If you use walking aids, replace the rubber tips before they become worn out
If you’re staying in:
- Make sure that your home is well lit to ensure you can see obstructions.
- Try to keep hallways, walkways and stairways clear
- If you have vulnerable neighbours or relatives try to find time to check on them when you can – even if it’s a phone call or video messaging.
- If snow is likely then don’t forget to buy a snow shovel and to use it before any snow fall compacts. If you’re unable to do this yourself then why not ask a neighbour?
- It’s OK to clear snow and ice from the pavement outside your home, your neighbour’s home and public spaces – refer to the Met Office Snow Code for more information.
- Stay prepared for ice and snow. Know where to find grit bins in your area. These are refilled by the council but can be heavily used in bad weather and it may be necessary to your own salt supplied from garden centres, etc.
Weather can be variable over winter and long, dark nights reduce visibility and ability to be active and interact with others.
Severe weather warnings are issued on the Met Office website, through the Met Office Twitter feed, and highlighted on radio and TV. You can also ring the Weather Desk on 0870 900 0100.
Priority Service Registers
Some water and power suppliers operate a Priority Services Register (PSR) for older, vulnerable people or people with disabilities.
Signing up to a PSR means you can get extra help and support with your energy supply such as priority reconnection if your supply is interrupted. You need to:
- Contact your supplier to see if you’re eligible to sign up to the PSR
- If you have different suppliers for gas and electricity, you’ll need to call them both
- You’ll need to register again if you change your energy supplier