Devon health chiefs plea: 'Please make sure you keep warm this winter'

North Devon Gazette

With wintry weather on the way, the NHS and local authorities in Devon are reminding people of the importance of ensuring people who are more vulnerable to cold are able to stay safe and warm.

Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health, said: “This winter, it’s more important than ever that we all take steps to ensure that we keep well, and those around us keep well. With colder weather arriving, it’s a timely reminder to encourage people to think ahead to what they might need in the house in terms of provisions and medication, and about what they can do to stay warm and healthy. It’s also a reminder for us to look out for our more vulnerable friends and family who may appreciate a bit of support.”

Dr Lincoln Sargeant, Torbay's Director of Public Health: “Older people and those with underlying health conditions like heart disease may become severely ill if they do not keep warm when the temperatures fall. It is important to keep warm and to look out for neighbours and relatives, particularly older ones and those who may live alone, as the weather gets colder.”

Director of Public Health in Plymouth Dr Ruth Harrell said: “With the cost of heating rising, it’s really tempting to think of heat as a luxury; but it isn't. It literally can be a life-saver. There is help out there for you so please do access it if you need it."

Some advice:

· Heating your home to at least 18C, including overnight, is particularly important if you have reduced mobility, are 65 and over, or have a health condition, such as heart or lung disease.

· 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.

· If you don’t use mains gas or electricity make sure you have sufficient fuel .

· Wear a few layers of thin clothing rather than one thick layer; this will trap the heat better.

· People who are mobile should continue to exercise and keep moving during the day. It is best not to sit for more than an hour if possible.

· Have sufficient medication, including repeat prescriptions and food at home in case very cold or icy weather sets in

If cold weather sets in people are being asked to check on family, friends and neighbours who are more vulnerable, but to ensure they follow COVID-19 guidance.

NHS Devon’s deputy chief nurse Susan Masters said: “Being cold isn’t just uncomfortable, it can be bad for your health. Sitting or sleeping in a cold room increases the risk of heart attacks, stroke and breathing problems.

“It is also important to keep your bedroom windows closed on a winter’s night as breathing cold air can increase the risk of chest infections.”

Making your home more energy efficient can help to keep you warm and reduce bills 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

There are a number of safety measures to take when using heating appliances:

· 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.

There is lots of help on hand for people who are vulnerable. For government endorsed independent advice on energy bills and energy efficiency, contact Simple Energy Advice online or on 0800 444202. Power and utility companies have schemes which make at-risk groups a priority for reconnection following power cuts.

The government household support scheme, which runs until Thursday 31 March 2022, is available to people across Devon, Torbay and Plymouth and can be used for short term food and utility costs as well as emergency boiler and heating repairs and housing costs.

Those with care responsibilities, whether for family members or on a professional or voluntary basis, can consult the Cold Weather Plan for England for a range of useful advice.