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

Flu is a highly infectious illness that can spread rapidly. If you're at risk of complications from flu, you may be eligible for a free flu jab.
Find out if you can get the flu jab for free on the NHS.

Last winter (2012/13) in the UK, there were 31,000 deaths linked to the cold weather.

Currently, there are 2.39 million households in the UK in fuel poverty. This is when a household has a low income and the cost of heating their home is high, and should they spend the amount they need to to keep their home warm, they would be left with an income below the poverty line.

How to stay warm

The government's advice on getting ready for winter winter aims to reduce cold-related illness and deaths. Key tips include:

  • Try to keep your home warm. Keep your main living room at around 18-21°C (65-70°F). If you can’t heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room during the day and the bedroom just before you go to sleep. 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. Food is a vital source of energy, which helps to 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.
  • Wrap up warm, inside and out. Layer your clothing to stay warm and wear shoes with a good grip if you need to go outside. If possible, stay inside during a cold period if you have heart or respiratory problems.
  • 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 Payments and Cold Weather Payments

Winter Fuel Payments of up to £300 are available if you were born on or before July 5 1952.

To find out more about Winter Fuel Payments, call 08459 151515 (8.30am-4.30pm Monday–Friday, textphone 0845 601 5613) or visit

Cold Weather Payments may be available to you if you receive certain benefits or have a child who is disabled or under the age of five.

To find out more about Cold Weather Payments contact Jobcentre Plus (you can find the nearest office in the phonebook) or visit

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 Mon-Fri and 10am-2pm Sat).

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.


Page last reviewed: 15/09/2012

Next review due: 15/09/2014


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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

missac said on 27 February 2014

It's all very well to say "keep rooms heated to 18°c" but not when we are a country where so many hard working people are unable to afford this. Myself and partner are both self-employed and not the "dole-scum scroungers" the press bang on about and yet have not seen our household thermometer go much over 12°c this winter - it's usually at about 9°c and less at night, not through choice but because we simply can't afford to put the heating on. Our pay-as-you-go gas meter is so expensive that even the hot water only goes on twice a week.
I work from home, and keep layers of cardigans, a winter coat, hat and scarf on all day and still feel the chill!
After a tough winter, we have around £20 a week to live off, far below this country's Poverty Line, yet we are under 65 and don't have children which leaves us in a bracket unable to receive assistance from a government that claims we have a "wealthy country".
We struggle with this, yet there are people far worse off out there - is it really worth advising people to "stay warm" when so much of the country's population do not have the means to do so?

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