More people get ill in winter and the number of deaths rises. There is a direct link between cold weather and the higher death rate, especially amongst older people and others in at-risk groups. Remember - winter needn't be dangerous if you take the right steps.
Looking out for trouble
If someone has had an accident in their home, fallen and injured themselves or been taken ill, they may not be able to attract attention of neighbours, passers-by or people who call at the door. Always be on the look-out for signs that something might be wrong, especially when the weather is cold.
There are many signs to look out for:
- Milk not taken in late in the day;
- Newspapers stuck in the letterbox;
- Curtains drawn during the day;
- Lights burning during the day;
- Home in darkness when there should be someone at home;
- Dog barking all day or the cat scratching to be let in.
Clearly, it is important to prevent people from becoming cold in the first place. Family, friends and neighbours in the community can look out for those who might be at risk from the cold. Prevention is always easier than cure!
Hypothermia is a lowered deep-core body temperature of 35C/95F or below. It is the lowered temperature of the organs inside the body which is important - an ordinary thermometer cannot measure this. You may not actually feel cold but if you sit in a cold room and do little or nothing to keep warm then you may run the risk of becoming hypothermic or becoming ill with bronchitis or pneumonia. Both are cold-related illnesses.
Watch out for the danger signs!
- Very cold skin on parts of the body normally covered, for example the stomach or armpits
- Slurred speech
- Absence of complaint about feeling cold, even in a bitterly cold room
If you are in doubt:
- move the person into warmer surroundings if possible
- wrap the person in a light layer of blankets or a duvet to avoid further loss of body heat. Give them warm, nourishing drinks
call the doctor or nurse
- do not subject the person to any sudden extreme change of temperature - so do not put them next to a fire or give them hot water bottles or heavy layers of clothes or blankets.
- do not give them alcohol, as it will stimulate further heat loss through the skin.
How can you help yourself keep warm?
Safety is important in all aspects of keeping yourself warm. Care should be taken when using electric blankets or filling hot water bottles. Never use a hot water bottle and an electric blanket together, as this is extremely dangerous and could give you an electric shock.
You may be entitled to some additional financial help, especially during periods of very cold weather.