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Cold weather health alert: Advice for staying warm and well

15 January 2024

An amber cold-health alert for the East of England, including Cambridgeshire, has been issued by the UKHSA and the Met Office.

The alert is in effect until 12pm on Friday, 19 January.

This weather could be a risk to your health, especially if you're over 65, under 5 or have a long-term health condition.

Val Thomas, Deputy Director of Public Health for Cambridgeshire County Council said: “Being cold isn’t just uncomfortable it can be bad for your health. Sitting or sleeping in a cold room is not good for you and increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, chest infections and breathing problems.

“Try to keep indoor temperatures to at least 18c if you can, we have included information about help available with heating costs in the tips below. Have regular hot food and drinks and try not to sit for more than an hour. Avoid going out in cold weather but if you must, wear warm clothes, shoes with a good grip and avoid icy walking areas which can lead to falls.

“If you have family and friends who are vulnerable, check in on them, especially those living alone or who have serious illnesses to make sure they are safe, warm and have food and any prescriptions they need so that they do not have to leave their homes.

“Be Winter Wise and follow our tips to look after yourself, family and friends.”

Keeping your home warm, efficient and safe:

  • Try and heat the rooms you use to at least 18°C if you can, particularly if you have reduced mobility, are 65 and over, or have a health condition such as heart or lung disease.
  • Overnight, people who are 65 and over or who have pre-existing health conditions, may find bedroom temperatures of at least 18°C are good for their health; this may be less important if you are a healthy adult under 65 and have appropriate clothing and bedding.
  • If you can’t heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room during the day and your bedroom just before you go to sleep.
  • Get your heating system and cooking appliances checked and keep your home well ventilated.
  • If you have an electric blanket, use it as instructed and get it tested every three years. Never use a hot water bottle with an electric blanket.
  • Do not use a gas cooker or oven to heat your home; it is inefficient and there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning which can kill.
  • If you are not on mains gas or electricity, make sure you have a good supply of heating oil, LPG or solid fuel so you do not run out in winter.

Keep the warmth in by:

  • Fitting draught proofing to seal any gaps around windows and doors.
  • Making sure you have loft insulation. And if you have cavity walls, make sure they are insulated too.
  • Insulate your hot water cylinder and pipes.
  • Draw your curtains at dusk and tuck behind radiators to help keep heat inside.
  • Make sure your radiators are not obstructed by furniture or curtains.

Help available to stay warm:

  • Those struggling with the rising costs of living will find a warm and friendly welcome in their local library this winter. Our 33 libraries are open regularly throughout the winter months and we’re keen to welcome anyone who may be struggling to heat their home or needs information about rising living costs. Alongside hundreds of thousands of books, the libraries offer a place to work, free internet access and social activities.

Look after yourself:

  • Keep your bedroom windows closed on a winter’s night; breathing cold air can increase the risk of chest infections.
  • Exercise is good for you all year round and it can keep you warm in winter but take care in icy conditions.
  • Keep moving if you can, this will help keep you warm. Try not to sit for more than an hour, get up and walk around, make a hot drink and spread housework throughout the day.
  • Wear a few layers of thin clothing rather than one thick layer; this will trap the heat better to keep you warm. Thin layers of clothes made from cotton, wool or fleecy fibres are particularly good for maintaining body heat.
  • Wear shoes with a good grip to prevent slips and falls. Make sure you have spare medication in case you are unable to go out.
  • Food is a vital source of energy and helps to keep your body warm so have plenty of hot food and drinks.
  • Aim to include five daily portions of fruit and vegetables. Tinned and frozen vegetables count towards your five a day.

Look after others:

  • Check on frail or older neighbours or relatives, especially those living alone or who have serious illnesses to make sure they are safe, warm and well.
  • Ask about living in a cold home and support vulnerable individuals to access existing resources to keep warm.
  • Those with care responsibilities, whether that’s for family members or on a professional or voluntary basis, should consult the Adverse Weather and Health Plan for England for a range of useful advice.
  • In advance of winter, carers should be aware of how to refer to local housing and health services if further support is required. Simple Energy Advice provides free advice on energy efficiency & National grants to help with energy bills: 0800 444202
  • Charities, social and health care organisations should ensure that carers of those most at-risk are getting the support and advice they need to protect those who may be vulnerable to the ill-effects of cold weather.


For more information and advice about staying safe and healthy during the winter months of 2023/24, you can search on your socials for #BeWinterWise.