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How to stay well in winter - Healthy body

Cold weather can make some health problems worse and even lead to serious complications, especially if you are 65 or older, or if you have a long-term health condition.

Who's most at risk from cold weather?

Some people are more vulnerable to the effects of cold weather. This includes:

  • people aged 65 and older
  • babies and children under the age of 5
  • people on a low income (so cannot afford heating)
  • people who have a long-term health condition
  • disabled people
  • pregnant women
  • people who have a mental health condition

Get advice if you feel unwell

If you are 65 or over, or in one of the other at-risk groups, see a pharmacist as soon as you feel unwell, even if it's just a cough or a cold.

Pharmacists can give you treatment advice for a range of minor illnesses. They will also tell you if you need to see a doctor.

The sooner you get advice, the sooner you are likely to get better.

Find a pharmacy

NHS 111

If you need medical advice when a pharmacy is closed, call: 111 or go to 111.nhs.uk

Get a flu jab

Flu can lead to serious illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, and even death in vulnerable people. You are more at risk if you are older, have a long-term condition, or are pregnant.

Make sure you get your free flu jab if:

  • you are 65 and over
  • you have a long-term health condition
  • you are pregnant

Ask for the flu jab at your GP surgery or at a local pharmacy.

Some children and some carers can also get a free flu jab. Find out more about the flu vaccine, including who should have it.

If you're 65 or over, you are also eligible for the pneumococcal vaccine, which will help protect you from pneumonia.

Keep your home warm

Follow these tips to keep you and your family warm and well at home:

  • if you're not very mobile, are 65 or over, or have a health condition, such as heart or lung disease, heat your home to at least 18C
  • keep your bedroom at 18C all night if you can – and keep the bedroom window closed
  • if you're under 65, healthy and active, you can safely have your home cooler than 18C, as long as you're comfortable
  • use a hot water bottle or electric blanket to keep warm in bed – but do not use both at the same time
  • have at least 1 hot meal a day – eating regularly helps keep you warm
  • have hot drinks regularly
  • to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), babies should sleep in rooms heated to between 16C and 20C
  • draw curtains at dusk and keep doors closed to block out draughts
  • get your heating system checked regularly by a qualified professional

Help with heating costs

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

For more information on how to reduce your bills and make your home more energy efficient, go to the government's Simple Energy Advice website. Or call the Simple Energy Advice helpline on 0800 444 202.

You can also find advice in the section on financial help to heat your home in the Keep Warm, Keep Well leaflet.

It's worth claiming all the benefits you're entitled to as soon as winter begins.

Look in on vulnerable neighbours and relatives

Check on older neighbours and relatives, and those with heart or breathing (respiratory) problems, to make sure they:

  • are safe and well
  • are warm enough, especially at night
  • have stocks of food and medicines so they do not need to go out during very cold weather

If you're worried about a relative or elderly neighbour, contact your local council or call the Age UK helpline on 0800 678 1602 (8am to 7pm every day).

If you're concerned that the person may be suffering from hypothermia, contact NHS 111.

Get advice on keeping warm and well.

Page last reviewed: 8 November 2019
Next review due: 8 November 2022