It may seem as if every time the weather changes, the news is suddenly filled with dread and scare mongering, but it is important to note that falling temperatures can be dangerous, especially to those who are very young, over 65 or have existing health conditions. People with young children should be aware that ice on footpaths and bitter weather is just as likely to affect them as it will pensioners and that keeping warm and safe is a priority. This week, Public Health England has released a series of statements urging residents of the South West of England to take extra care over the coming week as temperatures are set to plummet.
After forecasts have suggested that falling temperatures will bring the threat of snow and ice to the region, fresh warnings have been issued. The Met Office has forecast that temperatures will drop over the weekend and that people across the country should prepare for a prolonged spell of cold weather from Monday onwards. In the South West, It has been predicted that it will become increasingly cold, especially overnight with widespread frosts. Snow showers are possible in some areas from Monday onwards with significant wind chill at times. With this in mind, prepare for the eventuality that schools and roads maybe closed and that it is important to wrap up warm and keep tabs on any vulnerable neighbours or family members.
James Mapstone, Deputy Regional Director for PHE’s South region, said: “We are expecting some bitter weather over the weekend and early next week which may come as a bit of a shock for some after the more recent mild weather. We urge people to remember to check weather forecasts and plan their day carefully around the weather. Take extra care if outside to prevent any accidental slips from icy or snowy pavements. Clear paths outside your house if possible. When indoors, it is critical that people stay warm, particularly if 65 or over, have long term health conditions or are young children. Wear lots of thin layers, eat regular warm and well-balanced meals, and remember that moving about will help keep you warm.
“We know as the weather gets cold we see more people with pneumonia, stroke and hearts attacks. There are some simple ways to reduce these risks such as keeping rooms above 18 degrees C or 65 degrees Fahrenheit and, if you smoke, now is a good time to think about quitting. Look out for any vulnerable neighbours and if you think they could be having a stroke Act FAST and call 999.”
Dr Thomas Waite, of PHE’s Extreme Events team, said: “Cold temperatures, indoors and out, pose real health risks to many, and every winter we know that thousands of people get ill and even die following exposure to cold conditions. As forecasters tell us next week temperatures will fall, it’s critical that if you know anyone over 65, with young children or who has heart or lung conditions, that you keep an eye on them and think what help they may need. Staying warm by heating your home to at least 18C can be crucial to stay well.”
Paul Gunderson, Chief Operational Meteorologist at the Met Office, said: “Cold weather is currently established across the country with widespread overnight frosts. However colder conditions are expected to extend westwards across England during the weekend bringing a significant, and prolonged period of wintry weather. During Monday and Tuesday, snow showers are expected to move into eastern areas, before spreading westwards across England. These have the potential to align into bands, bringing some significant accumulations. Not everyone will see snowfall, however 5-10cm is possible where showers do line up, with the greatest risk across eastern and south eastern counties. These will also be accompanied by bitterly cold temperatures, and a significant wind chill. These cold, wintery conditions are then expected to continue to Wednesday and likely beyond.”
A series of tips have been released by Public Health England to help keep people safe during adverse weather. Including:
- Looking out for friends and family who may be vulnerable to the cold and ensure they have access to warm food and drinks and are managing to heat their homes adequately.
- Trying to maintain indoor temperatures to at least 18C, particularly if you are not mobile, have long term illness or are 65 or over.
- Staying tuned to weather forecasts, ensuring you are stocked with food and medications in advance (but avoid stockpiling), and arranging deliveries for these items if you are less mobile.
- Take weather into account when planning your activities over the coming days, baring in mind that there maybe traffic delays and cancellations on public transport.
- If eligible, seek entitlements and benefits such as Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments, which are available to some.
- If you meet the criteria, register for priority service with your energy and water suppliers.
- Avoid exposing yourself to cold or icy outdoor conditions if you are at a higher risk of cold related illness or falls
- Discuss with friends and neighbours about clearing snow and ice from in front of your house and public walkways nearby.
You can also follow #winterready (for message alert levels 0 and 1) and #weatheraware (alert levels 2 to 4) on Twitter for winter health advice. Further advice is available online in the Cold Weather Plan for England, available at www.gov.uk/phe sets out a series of actions that health and social care organisations, voluntary groups, and individuals can take to help reduce cold-related illnesses and deaths.