As sure as night follows day, September sees a drop in temperatures. It reminds us that winter is on the way and we should consider how we can prepare for the colder months ahead.During the winter there are particular groups in society that are considered high risk of cold. We should pay extra attention to the disabled, young children, the elderly (over 75 are statistically most vulnerable) and those in the fuel poverty bracket (2.46 million households).Keeping warm in winter will reduce physical and mental health issues. Chest infections, heart attacks, strokes and depression are heightened in cold weather.Preparing yourself and your home now can reduce risk of illness in your family and ultimately death.
What can I do now to prevent winter related illness?
- Visit your GP and ask about a flu jab and any other jabs that can help to protect you from pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia.
- Body temperatures fall when sleeping, making us more vulnerable to illness. Investing in an electric blanket or hot water bottle (not to be used together) will help at night.
- Keep an eye on your social calendar. The winter months can be a very lonely time for a lot of people. Arrange visits with elderly relatives and those tending to small children to ensure they are taking the appropriate precautions and they aren’t suffering from the ‘winter blues’.
- Stock up on medication to combat cold and flu, nobody wants to leave the house in the cold when they’re feeling poorly! Consider anti-bacterial hand gels to ensure infection control within your home.
- Pack your freezer with healthy meals. Consider online shopping to have your food delivered to your door, but remember deliveries may be aborted in severe weather.
- Quit smoking. Speak to your GP on the many different ways you can stop. Smoking lowers the immune system making smokers more susceptible to illness.
- Wrap up warm. Consider appropriate clothing for cold days. Multiple layers of clothing will trap warm air and allow your skin to breathe, rather than just one thick layer.
Preventative measures around your home
- Rock salt can run in short supply during the winter. Make sure you have a good supply ahead of the rush to spread on icy footpaths around your home. Some councils will provide a limited amount of free rock salt to a street near you.
- Ensure that your heating system is in full working order before you need it. A regular service from a GAS SAFE registered engineer will ensure maximum efficiency from your heating system. Remember engineers will be very busy when the cold weather strikes as some boilers strike up for the first time in months.
- Keep your main living room temperature at around 70°F/21°C. The rest of the house should be set at around 64°F/18°C.
- Insulate your home. We all know that insulating walls and the loft will keep the heat in and save us money but also consider cracks at wall edges, drafty windows and doors. Lagging exposed pipework will prevent a costly burst pipe in icy conditions.
- Allocate your stopcock. This tap will turn off the water supply to your home. Should a pipe burst it is vital you are able to switch off the water supply. Ensure you know where the stopcock is and that you are able to turn it.