As the temperature is set to plummet and snow showers predicted, NHS Blackburn with Darwen and NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGS) health leaders are once again urging people to be a good neighbour and check that their elderly friends and neighbours are warm and well.
Last winter, across the North West there were 6,800 excess winter deaths1 caused by cold weather. Many of these deaths could have been avoided. Older people, especially those who are more vulnerable, can become isolated in the winter months, and the cold weather can have a serious impact on their health.
Dr Preeti Shukla, local GP and clinical lead at NHS Blackburn with Darwen CCG, said: “For older people or for those with serious illnesses, cold weather can be especially dangerous. People with heart or respiratory (breathing) problems may have worse symptoms during a cold spell and for several days after temperatures return to normal.
“Please make sure you make the time to check on your elderly neighbours, friends or relatives to make sure they are coping with the cold weather and are feeling well. Don’t leave it to chance that someone else will.”
Some of the things you can do to help are:
- Make sure living rooms are heated to around 210C and bedrooms to 180C if possible; cold air can increase the risk of chest infections
- If they are using portable heaters, make sure these are safe (e.g. make sure you never cover, drapeor leave clothing on an electric heater).
- Ensure the person you are looking in on is eating well and has tinned meals and soups in the cupboard. Offer to get their shopping if necessary
- Ask if you can collect any prescriptions or take the person to any medical appointments – it is important they attend
- If they have to go out, ensure they wrap a scarf around their mouth and nose. This will stop the cold air going into their lungs and tightening their airways
Make sure you know some of the warning signs of hypothermia:
- Slurred speech
- Very cold skin on covered parts of the body (e.g. stomach)
- Not feeling cold even though the room may be extremely cold
Dr Shukla added: “As we age it takes longer to warm up, which raises the risk of increased blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Make sure you have had a flu jab, it isn’t too late, and don’t delay in getting treatment for minor winter ailments like colds or sore throats. Your local pharmacist can give advice on treatment before it gets worse.”
Further information on keeping well in winter, visit www.nhs.uk/keepwarmkeepwell