Severe weather forecast for the South East this weekend could cause major health risks and Kent County Council is reminding residents of simple steps to help vulnerable friends, families and neighbours.
A level three cold weather alert has been called for the region by the Met Office which triggers actions in the NHS, public health, social care and other community organisations, to support vulnerable people who have health, housing or economic circumstances that increase their risk of harm.
Regional Risk Assessments report a 90% probability of severe cold weather in Southeast England from Friday evening (16 March) to Tuesday 20 March. This follows Met Office forecasts of becoming much colder from Saturday onwards with an increasing risk of snow and very low temperatures likely until Monday when it should become less cold. There will also be a significant wind chill given strong easterly winds.
With the cold weather alert, it is important that people are making sure they are following basic, common sense advice to help keep themselves warm and well.
Peter Oakford, KCC Cabinet Member for Public Health, said: “It is vital that during this prolonged period of severe weather, people act to keep themselves and their home warm – even if this is just by heating the bedroom and living room. We’re also urging people to assist their local community – is there someone you can help by bringing in groceries? Every year, cold weather leads to extra deaths and taking measures to stay warm and work with others, can make a life-changing difference.”
Nationally, there are thousands of excess winter deaths per year because of a drop in temperature. The ideal indoor temperature is 18-21°C (65-75°F). If trying to save fuel, it is advisable to heat the living room during the day, the bathroom when needed and the bedroom, just before going to bed.
Other simple common sense measures for keeping warm and well in the home include:
- Regular cups of tea, or other hot drinks, and regular hot meals can help your body stay warm.
- Make sure warm clothes are within reach – keep jumpers and thick socks close by. Wear several thin layers, rather than one thick one.
- Order repeat prescriptions in good time to make sure you have enough supply of any medicines you use.
- Having a family member, friend or neighbour to help out with anything from putting the bin out to collecting prescriptions or doing shopping.
- Have your heating and cooking appliances checked regularly and make sure the chimney has been swept recently.
Preparing for very cold weather means being ready to stay indoors, making sure there is enough food and medicine at home, ordering repeat prescriptions in plenty of time, particularly if bad weather is forecast. If you have to travel or go outdoors, tips to follow include:
- Wear layers of warm clothing and shoes with slip resistant, good grip soles
- Make sure you are not caught out by snow and ice; stay tuned to the weather forecast and plan ahead with food supplies
More information is available about how to keep yourself and others safe during cold weather through www.kent.gov.uk/winterhealth and www.nhs.uk/Livewell/winterhealth/Pages/Verycoldweather.aspx
People are urged not to go to A&E or call 999 unless it’s an emergency. If you are in any doubt, NHS111 can help you get the right treatment.
The free web app Health Help Now can be used to check symptoms or to find out when and where local services are open. It can also be downloaded to mobile phones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers from http://kent.healthhelpnow.nhs.uk/