London: As the winter months approach, we all need to plan ahead and take steps to help protect ourselves from the elements. Around 20,000 people die each year in England and Wales as a result of the cold weather and in especially cold winters, deaths in the UK could rise as high as 40,000.
The British government’s Department of Healths Keep Warm Keep Well campaign offers older people, the disabled and those on low incomes advice on keeping warm and staying healthy during the colder months. A free winter guide gives plenty of practical tips as well as information on financial support that might be available, such as grants for home improvements to help make houses warmer or help to meet the cost of heating bills.
Britains longest serving TV weather forecaster, Michael Fish MBE (seen in our picture right) and who is championing this years campaign, said:
There is a direct link between cold weather and serious illness – as the temperature drops, the mortality rate rises. A couple of changes to your lifestyle or home can make all the difference to your wellbeing during the winter.
You can keep warm and well by taking a few precautionary steps:
Make sure your home is warm this winter:
o Check your heating system works
o Ensure your home is energy efficient so heating bills are kept to a minimum
Make sure youre healthy this winter:
o Check with your GP to see if you qualify for a free flu and/or pneumo jab
o Eat well, dress sensibly and take exercise
Keep Warm Keep Well is a partnership between the Department of Health, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), The Department for Work and Pensions, Help the Aged, Age Concern, National Energy Action, Energywatch and WRVS.
For more information about the Keep Warm Keep Well policy, please contact Erica McAlpine in the Department of Health Press Office on 020 7210 5239 or firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. Source of number of cold weather deaths http://www.statistics.gov.uk./cci/nugget.asp?id=574
2. A copy of the Keep Warm Keep Well booklet can be obtained by writing to DH Publications, PO Box 777, London SE1 6XH. The book is published in a range of languages and in an easy read format. For the hard of hearing, an audio version of the leaflet is also available
3. Campaign materials can be downloaded from the Department of Health website www.dh.gov.uk/socialcare
4. To find out about getting a flu or pneumo jab, people should approach their GP, practice nurse or pharmacist, visit www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk, NHS Direct Interactive on digital satellite TV, or call NHS Direct on 0845 4647
5. For advice on any aspect of Winter Fuel Payments (including eligibility), call the helpline on 08459 15 15 15 (8.30am to 4.30am, Monday-Friday). Please use textphone 0845 601 5613 if you have speech or hearing difficulties. Please have your National Insurance number ready when you call. You can also go to www.thepensionservice.gov.uk/winterfuel
6. Call a helpline for advice on keeping warm and well this winter:
Warm Front Scheme 0800 072 0151
Home Heat Helpline 0800 33 66 99
NHS Direct (health advice and information) 0845 4647
Calls to NHS Direct cost a maximum of 5 pence per minute from a BT landline. The cost of calls from mobiles and other networks may vary. Your service provider may charge a minimum cost per call. For patients safety all calls are recorded
7. Help and advice is also available from:
Home Improvement Agencies 0145 789 1909
The Energy Saving Trusts Energy Efficiency Advice Centres 0800 512 012
Energywatch 0191 239 3291
National Energy Action (NEA) www.nea.org.uk
1) Get a flu jab
This is available free from your GP if you are 65 or over, or any age over 6 months with a serious respiratory condition, heart, kidney or liver disease, diabetes or lowered immunity.
2) Dress well
You are at risk if you get cold. Wearing the right amount of clothes in layers and putting on a hat when you go outside, can help keep you much warmer.
3) Eat well
Food is a vital source of warmth. Eat a mixed diet each day and have regular hot meals and drinks throughout the day.
4) Keep moving
Moving around is good for your health and generates extra body heat, so any exercise or activity will help keep you warm.
5) Heat well
Try to keep a temperature of 21 degrees in all rooms you use during the day. Or, at the very least heat your living room during the day and your bedroom at night. Use a hot water bottle or an electric blanket (but never at the same time).
6) Plan ahead
Check your heating system and gas safety. Fitting draught proofing or insulation and getting your chimney swept are just a few things you can do now to make a difference.
7) Get financial support
Initiatives such as the Warm Front Scheme, Winter Fuel Payments and the Home Heat Helpline offer advice and grants for energy-efficiency, fuel bills and insulation for those most vulnerable to the winter. Call to find out your eligibility.
8) Stop smoking
Giving up smoking will boost your health for the winter, reduce your chances of a heart attack and improve your bodys circulation.
9) Look out for your neighbours
If you have an elderly neighbour or relative, make routine visits to their home and keep an eye out for them in the winter months.
10) Look after yourself if you get ill
Keep a well-stocked medicine chest to help you prepare for potential illness. If you go down with flu you should stay at home and take plenty of rest.