As the warmer months draw ever closer, we tend to put preventative winter measures to the back of our mind, but what if we started planning now to give our family, friends and neighbours the best possible chance to get through next winter as safely as possible?According to the office of National Statistics an estimated 18,200 excess winter deaths occurred in England and Wales in 2013/14, which sounds like a frightening amount but is actually the lowest number of excess winter deaths since records began in 1950/51.Certain groups in our society remain at higher risk over the winter months; the disabled, young children, the elderly (75 and over statistically most at risk) and those suffering from fuel poverty. Currently, there are 2.46 million households in England suffering fuel poverty.
Preventing Health IssuesThe bottom line is keeping warm; cold homes have a significant impact on people’s health. Staying warm inside and warmer when outside will help to prevent serious health problems such as chest infections, heart attacks and strokes.Preparing your home for winter is something you can do all year around as sometimes work on your home can take time to organise if you need to go via a landlord or need to involve tradesman.
A few simple tips to help you prepare for next winter
- Ensure that your heating system is regularly serviced by a GAS SAFE registered engineer to ensure maximum efficiency from your heating system.
- The stopcock will turn off the water supply into your home. In the event of a burst pipe, it is vital you are able to switch off the water supply. Check the stopcock isn’t jammed and you are able to turn the tap off.
- To combat cold nights, invest in an electric blanket OR a hot water bottle (using both together is dangerous). Our body temperatures naturally drop when we sleep, leaving us more vulnerable to illness. Low temperatures will raise the blood pressure which can take longer to return to normal in older people.
- An audible carbon monoxide alarm in every room with a gas appliance will ensure your safety from poisonous gases.
- Elderly neighbours, family and friends should be visited more frequently throughout the winter not only to quash the winter blues but to ensure they are eating warm foods and doing everything they can to make sure their home is as warm as possible. If you live alone or stay indoors with small children, arrange visiting dates to see family and friends.
- Rock salt to spread on icy footpaths will help to avoid slips and falls but can run in short supply during the winter. Some councils will provide free rock salt but it can also be purchased from DIY stores before the demand rises.
- You may wish to stock up on cold and flu remedies in the house. This may prevent an unnecessary trip out in the cold weather when you are feeling poorly. Also consider hand gels to prevent the spread of germs within your home.
- Get a flu jab and ‘pneumo’ jab from your GP. The ‘pneumo’ jab helps protect you against pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia.
- Ensure you stock up on freezer items to ensure you have access to hot-healthy meals. If you are new to online shopping, you could try it out in the warmer months, giving you access to shopping without leaving the house throughout the cold spells.
- You may have a dog that needs regular exercise. There are numerous companies that offer dog walking services for people that can’t get out regularly. If you fall into the elderly bracket or look after young children, it may be a service that you can look into.
- Fuel poverty is becoming a growing problem in the UK. If you are claiming benefits you should enquire at the local jobcentre and ensure you are receiving everything you are entitled to. Your local council offices and the Citizens Advice Bureau will offer guidance on paying your fuel bills.
- Cut out smoking. As if there weren’t already enough reasons to give up smoking, during the winter smokers can be more susceptible to illness as smoking lowers the immune system. Speak to medical professionals on the many different ways you can stop.
- Consider your winter wardrobe throughout the year. Several thin layers of clothing will keep you warmer than one thick layer. Fabrics such as fleece are designed to keep you warm by trapping warm air in but still allowing your skin to breathe.
- Get to know your thermostat settings. Keep the main living room around 70°F/21°C, and the rest of the house should be at least 64°F/18°C
- Ensure your home is fully insulated. This involves checking for drafts around wall edges, windows and doors. Numerous products can combat drafts for little outlay. Simple pipe lagging on any exposed pipework may prevent a costly burst pipe in icy conditions. Insulating walls and roof space will make the most of your heat, keeping it in for longer and saving you money in the long run. Look into the governments Green Scheme to see if you are entitled to financial help.
- A Winter Fuel Payment of between £100 and £300 is available if you were born on or before July 5 1952. Find out more about the Winter Fuel Payment.