Keep warm, keep well

Cold homes have a significant impact on people's health. One of the best ways of keeping yourself well during winter is to stay warm.

Keeping warm over the winter months can help prevent colds, flu or more serious health conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression.

The chances of these problems are higher if you're vulnerable to cold-related illnesses because of one or more of the following:

  • you're over 65
  • you're on a low income (so can't afford heating)
  • you have a long-term health condition, such as heart, lung or kidney disease
  • you are disabled

How to fight flu

Flu is a highly infectious illness that can spread rapidly. You may be eligible for a free flu jab if you're at risk of complications from flu.

Find out if you can get the flu jab for free on the NHS.

Fuel poverty facts

On average, there are around 25,000 excess winter deaths each year in England. There is strong evidence that some of these winter deaths are indeed 'extra' and are related to cold temperatures as well as infectious diseases such as flu.

In 2013 there were 2.35 million households in England in fuel poverty. This is when a household is living below the poverty line and has higher than average energy bills.

Read more about fuel poverty.

Keep your home warm

  • If you have reduced mobility, are 65 or over, or have a health condition such as heart or lung disease, you should heat your home to at least 18C. It's a good idea to keep your bedroom at this temperature all night if you can. During the day you may prefer your living room to be slightly warmer. Make sure you wear enough clothes to stay warm.
  • If you're under 65 and healthy and active, you can safely have your house cooler than 18C, if you're comfortable.
  • You can also use a hot water bottle or electric blanket (but not both at the same time) to keep warm while you're in bed.

Eat well in winter

Food is a vital source of energy, which helps keep your body warm. Try to make sure that you have hot meals and drinks regularly throughout the day and keep active in the home if you can.

Stay active

We all know that exercise is good for your overall health - and it can keep you warm in winter. If you can stay active, even moderate exercise can bring health benefits. If possible, try not to sit still for more than an hour or so. Remember to speak to your GP before starting any exercise plan.

Wear warm clothes

Wrap up warm, inside and out. Wear lots of thin layers - clothes made from cotton, wool or fleecy fibres are particularly good and help to maintain body heat. Wear shoes with a good grip to prevent slips and falls when walking outside. If possible, stay inside during a cold period if you have heart or respiratory problems.

Help your neighbours in winter

Check on older neighbours or relatives to make sure they're safe and well. Make sure they're warm enough, especially at night, and have stocks of food and medicines so they don't need to go out during very cold weather.

If you're worried about a relative or an elderly neighbour, contact your local council or ring the Age UK helpline on 0800 00 99 66.

Read more tips on how to cope in very cold weather.

Cold weather benefits

You may also be able to claim financial and practical help with heating your home. Grants available include the Winter Fuel Payment and Cold Weather Payment

Winter Fuel Payment

A Winter Fuel Payment of between £100 and £300 tax-free is available to help you pay your heating bills if you were born on or before January 5 1953.

Find out more about the Winter Fuel Payment.

Cold Weather Payment

Cold Weather Payment may be available to you if you receive certain benefits. Payments are made when your local temperature is either recorded as, or forecast to be, an average of 0C or below over seven consecutive days.

You'll get a payment of £25 for each seven-day period of very cold weather between November 1 2015 and March 31 2016.

Find out more about the Cold Weather Payment.

How to reduce your energy bills

The Energy Saving Trust (EST) has advice on how to reduce bills and make your home more energy efficient. They can also advise on grants and schemes available around the UK. 

Find out more online from the EST website or call 0300 123 1234 (9am-8pm Monday to Friday and 10am-2pm Saturday).

For more information on cold weather benefits and other help available, read the Financial help to heat your home section in the Keep warm, keep well leaflet (PDF, 329kb).

Read these top tips for keeping warm and well (PDF, 1.15MB).

Page last reviewed: 15/10/2014

Next review due: 15/10/2017

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