Healthcare leaders in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are urging residents to take precautions to protect themselves and vulnerable friends and family members from the effects of cold weather.
The warning comes after the Met Office issued a yellow warning for snow and ice as temperatures drop.
Dr Jonathan Hayes, clinical chair of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), explains how cold weather can cause health problems:
When temperatures drop it makes us more vulnerable to a range of winter illnesses and ailments such as flu, coughs, colds, because they spread more easily in lower temperatures.
This is also our first winter with coronavirus in circulation, which is likely to amplify the risks of cold weather with some of our most vulnerable residents, such as the elderly and those with long term health conditions, in isolation away from their support networks.
We would ask residents to keep in contact with elderly family and neighbours, and those with heart or breathing problems during this colder spell. Taking a few minutes to ask if they need any shopping or medicines and making sure they are warm and comfortable can make all the difference.
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).
Five tips for keeping well in cold weather:
- Have a flu vaccination - Make sure you get your flu jab. It is the best protection against a serious condition that kills thousands and hospitalises thousands more in England each year.
- Keep warm - Keep your home at 18°C (65°F) or higher could be good for your health. If you can’t heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room during the day and your bedroom just before you go to sleep.
- Visit your pharmacist – Pharmacists can give treatment advice for a range of minor illnesses and can tell you if you need to see a doctor. If you’re experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, such as high temperature, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, do not visit your pharmacist. Instead, book a coronavirus test as soon as possible.
- Look out for vulnerable friends and relatives - Look out for other people who may need a bit of extra help over the winter. This can be checking in on someone to see how they are, or helping with shopping or collecting medicines. Remember to follow coronavirus social distancing guidance by washing hands regularly, wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces and staying two metres apart.
- Use financial schemes for help - 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.