Feeling unwell? Don’t wait – seek advice from a pharmacist

How the cold can affect your health

The cold and damp weather – ice, snow and cold winds – can be bad for your health, especially if you're aged 65 or older. It can make you more more vulnerable to winter illnesses, such as coughs and colds, which could become very serious. It also increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke. However, there are things you can do.

What you can do

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 yourself 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.

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

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

Get the right help
Make sure you're receiving all the help you are entitled to. Learn how to make your home more energy efficient and 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 your gas and electricity.

You can also check your 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.

You do become more vulnerable in winter as you age. You need to make sure you're warm. Contact your energy provider to find out if they can help you with your heating bill – most have allowances for older people.

Susan Alexander, 73

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.