Do you care for an older or disabled person? Help them stay well this winter

How cold can affect health

Winter weather can be seriously bad for our health, especially for people aged 65 or older, and people with long term conditions. Being cold can aggravate existing conditions and raise the risk of increased blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. However, there are lots of things you can do to help the person you care for stay well this winter.

How you can help

Get expert advice
Always seek advice from your pharmacist at the first sign of a cough or a cold before it gets more serious.

Buy over-the-counter medicines
Many over-the-counter medicines (including paracetamol and ibuprofen) are available to relieve symptoms of common winter ailments such as colds, sore throat, cough, sinusitis or painful middle ear infection (earache).

Keep them warm
Keeping warm, both inside and outdoors, over the winter months can help to prevent colds, flu and more serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression. The person you care for should:

  • Wear several layers of light clothes, as these trap warm air better than one bulky layer
  • Heat their home to at least 18C (65F)
  • Stay active – try not to let them sit still for more than an hour or so

Keep out the cold at night 
Keep their bedroom window closed on winter nights. Breathing cold air can be bad for health as it increases the risk of chest infections.

Get them the right help
Make sure they're receiving all the help they are entitled to. Learn how to make their home more energy efficient and help take advantage of financial schemes to keep up with energy bills. See Keep Warm, Keep Well for details.

Visit Go Energy Shopping, the Ofgem website, to find the best deal for their gas and electricity.

You can also check their heating and cooking appliances are safe and operating properly by contacting a Gas Safe registered engineer.

Alternative formats – this information is available in large print and other formats from the Campaign Resources Centre (registration required) or by emailing Public Health England.

My mum is lucky to have four daughters who can look after her, but not everyone is so fortunate. Make sure you're in touch with your vulnerable relatives, friends and neighbours, especially when it's cold and dark. You can help them stay well this winter.

Joanne Ellis, 54, cares for her 80-year-old mother who lives alone

Find a pharmacy near you

If you start to feel unwell, even if it's a cough or a cold, don't wait until it gets more serious. Seek advice from your pharmacist.