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Extremely cold weather guidance – how to keep safe

Cold weather can seriously impact the health of older individuals, particularly those with long-term conditions like heart or lung issues, and also affects other vulnerable groups, including homeless people.

Posted on: 9 January 2024

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Met Office have issued a yellow cold-health alert for the East of England. The alert is currently in place from 9am on Saturday 5 January until 12-noon on Friday 12 January.

During periods of colder weather, it is important to check in on family, friends and relatives who may be more vulnerable to the colder temperatures that can have a serious impact on health. Keep in touch with them and ask if they need any practical help such as stocking up on food and medicine.

If you need help urgently or you are worried about someone else’s health but aren’t sure about which service you need, NHS 111, either online or on the phone, will ensure you get the right care and treatment.

Read on for guidance on how to: Keeping your home warm, efficient and safe | Look after yourself | Look after others | Keep the warmth in | and Get financial help. 


Keeping your home warm, efficient and safe: 

Try to heat the rooms you use to at least 18°C if you can, as this reduces the risk to health of someone wearing suitable winter clothing. 

Cold weather can have a serious impact on health, and it is therefore important to try and heat the rooms you use to at least 18°C if you can, particularly if you have reduced mobility, are 65 and over, or have a health condition such as heart or lung disease. 

Overnight, people who are 65 and over or who have pre-existing health conditions, may find bedroom temperatures of at least 18°C are good for their health; this may be less important if you are a healthy adult under 65 and have appropriate clothing and bedding. 

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.

Get your heating system and cooking appliances checked and keep your home well ventilated. 

If you have an electric blanket, use it as instructed and get it tested every three years. Never use a hot water bottle with an electric blanket.

Do not use a gas cooker or oven to heat your home; it is inefficient and there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning which can kill.

If you are not on mains gas or electricity, make sure you have a good supply of heating oil, LPG or solid fuel so you do not run out in winter.

Look after yourself:

Keeping well will allow you to do more and keep your independence. Being cold isn’t just uncomfortable it can be bad for your health. Sitting or sleeping in a cold room is not good for you and increases the risk of heart attacks, stroke and breathing problems. Don’t let the cold catch you out, check the weather forecast and be ready for cold weather.

Keep your bedroom windows closed on a winter’s night; breathing cold air can increase the risk of chest infections.

Exercise is good for you all year round and it can keep you warm in winter.

Keep moving if you can, this will help keep you warm. Try not to sit for more than an hour, get up and walk around, make a hot drink and spread housework throughout the day. 

Wear a few layers of thin clothing rather than one thick layer; this will trap the heat better to keep you warm.  Thin layers of clothes made from cotton, wool or fleecy fibres are particularly good for maintaining body heat.

Wear shoes with a good grip to prevent slips and falls. Make sure you have spare medication in case you are unable to go out.

Food is a vital source of energy and helps to keep your body warm so have plenty of hot food and drinks.

Aim to include five daily portions of fruit and vegetables. Tinned and frozen vegetables count towards your five a day.

Prepare for cold weather. Stock up on tinned and frozen foods, warm clothes and any medication so you don’t have to go out too much when it’s cold or icy.

Power and utility companies have schemes which make at-risk groups a priority for reconnection following power cuts. Find out if you meet the criteria and if so, sign up here. 

Look after others:

All of the advice for looking after yourself can be used to plan how to help others.

Check on frail or older neighbours or relatives, especially those living alone or who have serious illnesses to make sure they are safe, warm and well. 

Ask about living in a cold home and support vulnerable individuals to access existing resources to keep warm.

Those with care responsibilities, whether that’s for family members or on a professional or voluntary basis, should consult the Cold Weather Plan for England for a range of useful advice.

In advance of winter, carers should be aware of how to refer to local housing and health services if further support is required. Simple Energy Advice provides free advice on energy efficiency & National grants to help with energy bills: 0800 444202 /

Charities, social and health care organisations should ensure that carers of those most at-risk are getting the support and advice they need to protect those who may be vulnerable to the ill-effects of cold weather.

Keep the warmth in by:

Fitting draught proofing to seal any gaps around windows and doors.

Making sure you have loft insulation. And if you have cavity walls, make sure they are insulated too.

Insulate your hot water cylinder and pipes.

Draw your curtains at dusk and tuck behind radiators to help keep heat inside.

Make sure your radiators are not obstructed by furniture or curtains.

Get financial help:

There are grants, benefits and advice to help make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating or help with bills. It’s worthwhile claiming all the benefits you are entitled to before winter sets in.

For advice on energy bills and energy efficiency, contact Simple Energy Advice: 0800 444202 /