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Preparing for winter

As we get older, our bodies respond differently to the cold which can leave us more susceptible to serious health problems. But with a little preparation, and by following some simple suggestions, you can stay healthy, safe and comfortable this winter.

How can I stay healthy in winter?

Cold temperatures can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of flu and other lung-related problems. Our blood pressure takes longer to return to normal, and this can put you at greater risk of a heart attack or stroke. That’s why it’s so important to look after yourself in the winter. 

Keep in mind these 8 points. Click on the headers for more information.

Find out how your local Age UK can help you this winter


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How do I stay safe during winter?

Take care when driving

  • Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to arrive.
  • Always charge your mobile phone fully before you set off on a journey
  • If you have to drive in bad weather, make sure you allow extra time for your journey.
  • Make sure you have warm clothes, boots, food, water, a torch and a spade in the car.

Be careful of slippery or wet surfaces 

  • Wear boots, shoes and slippers with non-slip soles.
  • Keep a mixture of salt and sand handy to put on steps or paths in icy weather.
  • Consider fitting a grab rail if you have steps at your front or back door.

Safety around the house

  • Get your heating system serviced every year by a qualified professional to ensure it's running safely.
  • Make sure your smoke alarm is working. Change the batteries every 12 months.
  • You can ask your local fire service for a free safety check of your home. You may be eligible to get free smoke alarms installed.
  • Put guards on open fires, and be careful not to hang washing too close to the fire.
  • Don’t block up air vents. Fires and heaters need ventilation.
  • Test your carbon monoxide alarms. If 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.
  • Keep a torch handy in case you lose power.
  • Keep your radio, mobile phone, laptop or tablet charged, so you can use the battery power if there's no electricity.
  • Keep a list of emergency numbers, such as your utility companies, by your phone. If there is a power cut, call the 105 electricity helpline. 

How can I keep myself warm?

Even if it isn’t a severe winter, cold weather makes us more susceptible to certain illnesses. Follow these tips to stay healthy and keep warm indoors and out.

  • 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.
  • Use a hot-water bottle, wheat bag or an electric blanket to warm the bed. 
  • Check whether your electric blanket can be kept on all night. Some blankets should only be used to warm the bed before you get in. If you have continence difficulties, talk to your doctor before using one.
  • Never use a hot-water bottle and an electric blanket together as this can be dangerous and get your electric blanket checked every three years by an expert.
  • Check local news and weather forecasts for advice when cold weather is predicted.

How can I keep my home warm?

  • Close the curtains in the evenings and fit thermal linings if you can. This will keep the heat in.
  • 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 increases the risk of chest infections.
  • Draught-proof doors and windows, insulate the loft, lag the hot-water tank and pipes, and consider getting cavity-wall insulation. These measures will help to keep your home warm and your energy bills down – and you may be able to get financial help to set these up.
  • Keep your main living room heated to 21°C (70°F).
  • Heat your bedroom to 18°C (64°F).

How can I heat my home efficiently?

Energy prices are high, but heating your home is easier and cheaper if it’s well insulated and your heating works properly.

  • Get to know how the timer and thermostat on your heating system work. You may be able to set the timer to switch the heating on earlier.
  • Have your heating system serviced each year and check that it’s working before the cold weather starts. Gas heating must be serviced by a Gas Safe-registered engineer.
  • Ask your energy supplier about their Priority Services Register, which gives older or disabled people extra help and support.

Find a Gas Safety-registered engineer

Find a registered engineer in your local area.

Can I get any financial help with my energy bills?

Make sure you’re not missing out on any benefits or discounts that will help keep you and your home warm.

Contact the Energy Saving Trust as you may be able to get extra financial help from the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO)  

Check your current energy tariff and shop around to see if you can get a better deal. Visit Ofgem's website to find a price comparison site or contact your current provider. 

If you’re having difficulty paying your bills, talk to your energy company or contact Charis Grants can direct you to grants to help with utility bills. Companies should not disconnect all-pensioner households during winter months.

You may be entitled to a Warm Home Discount on your electricity bill if you receive Pension Credit or if you’re on a low income. It’s a one-off discount usually made between October and March.

You could also be entitled to certain benefits such as Winter Fuel Payment and Cold Weather Payment to help with heating costs.

Visit your local Age UK for a free benefits check or use our online benefits calculator. 

Check what you're entitled to

More than £3.5bn worth of money in benefits goes unclaimed every year.

What should I do next?

  1. Get this year's flu jab. Speak with your GP to see if you’re up to date with other vaccinations too.
  2. Check your smoke alarm and/or carbon monoxide alarms are working. If you can’t remember the last time you’ve changed the batteries, replace them with new ones.
  3. Find out if you're eligible for any benefits or discounts to help with your energy bills. Contact your local Age UK or use our benefits calculator. It only takes around 10 minutes to complete it.

For more information call the Age UK Advice Line on 0800 055 6112.
We’re open 8am to 7pm, every day of the year.


Last updated: Nov 13 2018

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