Put yourself first this winter – keep warm to keep well

Somerset’s public health leaders and family doctors are advising the elderly and people living with long-term conditions in Somerset to keep warm in order to keep 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 condition, live alone, or live with a disability or mental health condition.

Dr Ed Ford, Minehead GP and Chairman of Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “In order to keep well this winter, please make sure that you stay warm. If you are going outside, make sure you dress appropriately and wear lots of layers. If indoors, make sure that you keep your heating to the right temperature; heating your home to at least 18°C in winter poses minimal risk to your health when you are wearing suitable clothing. Having regular hot drinks and meals can also help keep you warm.

Dr Ford added: “If there is anyone you know who might be at special risk, such as an elderly or disabled neighbour living alone, check in on them at regular intervals and make sure they know what to do to stay warm and well, and their home is well stocked with food and medications.

“If you do become unwell, your local pharmacist can give you treatment advice for a range of minor illnesses. They will also tell you if you need to see a doctor. So see a pharmacist at the first sign of a winter illness, even if it’s just a cough or a cold. The sooner you get advice, the sooner you are likely to get better. If you are worried about your health or that of somebody else and don’t know what to do, ring NHS 111.

Cllr Christine Lawrence, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: “Cold weather can affect both physical and mental health, and severe cold snaps can have dramatic effects on everyday life, especially for people who are already vulnerable because of their age, illness or disability.

“A good way to protect yourself against illness is to make sure you’ve had your flu jab this year – it’s free for over 65s, people living in a care or residential home, pregnant women and people living with a long term condition. Just ask at your local pharmacy or GP practice for further advice.”

Here are a few tips on staying warm and well this winter:

  • Make sure you can heat your home properly. Check heating equipment is working in the summer before the weather turns cold.
  • Heat your home well. By setting your heating to the right temperature (18–21°C or 64–70°F), you can keep your home warm and your bills as low as possible.
  • Get financial support. 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 all the benefits you are entitled to.
  • Eat well. Food is a vital source of energy, which helps to keep your body warm. Try to make sure that you have hot meals and drinks regularly throughout the day.
  • Get a flu jab. You can get a free jab from your GP to protect against seasonal flu if you are over 65, have a long-term health condition or are pregnant.