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Keeping warm

A couple wrapped up warm in the park

Keeping your home warm

Low temperatures increase the risk of flu and other respiratory problems and can raise blood pressure. Blood pressure takes longer to return to normal in older people after being out in the cold and this puts us at greater risk of heart attacks and strokes. The colder your home, the higher the risk to your health.

  • Keep your main living room around 70°F (21°C), and the rest of your home heated to at least 64°F (18°C).
  • Check your thermostat or use a room thermometer to monitor temperature but if you feel cold, turn the heat up regardless of what the thermometer reads.
  • Get to know how the timer and thermostat on your heating system work. If you have individual thermostats on your radiators, make sure they’re set at the right temperature in the rooms where you spend time.
  • Close the curtains at dusk and fit thermal linings if you can. This will keep the heat in.
  • Put guards on open fires, and be careful not to hang washing too close to the fire.
  • Don’t block up air vents, as fires and heaters need ventilation.
  • Keep your bedroom window closed at night when the weather is cold. The coldest time of the day is just before dawn and breathing in cold air raises the risk of chest infections.
  • Test your carbon monoxide alarms. If you don’t have any alarms, you need to get one fitted in each room that has a gas appliance, as there’s a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if air vents become blocked.
  • Contact your local Age UK for a benefits check and advice on any financial support you may be eligible for. If you’re having difficulty paying your heating bills, Charis Grants can direct you to grants to help with utility debts.

Keeping warm indoors and out

Even if it isn't a severe winter, cold weather makes us more vulnerable to certain illnesses. You’re at risk of a heart attack, a stroke or even hypothermia if you’re exposed to a cold environment for a long time, or to extreme cold for only a short time.

  • Make sure you keep your hands and face warm. As well as wearing gloves and a hat, always wrap a scarf around your face when you go out in cold weather, even for short intervals. This helps to warm the air you breathe.
  • Several thin layers of clothing will keep you warmer than one thick layer, as the layers trap warm air. Clothes made from wool or fleecy synthetic fibres such as polyester are a better choice than cotton. Start with thermal underwear, warm tights or socks.
  • If you’re sitting down, a shawl or blanket will provide a lot of warmth. Try to keep your feet up, as the air is cooler at ground level.
  • Wear warm clothes in bed. When very cold, wear thermal underwear, bed socks and even a hat – a lot of heat is lost through your head.
  • Use a hot-water bottle, wheat bag or an electric blanket to warm the bed, but never use a hot-water bottle and an electric blanket together as this can be dangerous. Check whether your electric blanket can be kept on all night or whether it’s only designed to warm the bed before you get in. Get it checked every three years by an expert. If you have continence difficulties, talk to your doctor before using one.
  • Keep your feet warm. Choose boots with non-slip soles and a warm lining, or wear thermal socks.
  • Check local news and weather forecasts for advice when cold weather is predicted.
For more information about keeping warm this winter, take a look at our free information guide Winter wrapped up.

Download the guide 

You can also download our free winter health resources.

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For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 169 2081