Health advice for extreme events from Public Health England

Cold weather

Get your flu jab if you:

  • Are aged 65 or older;
  • Are pregnant;
  • Have a serious medical condition such as chronic heart, lung, neurological, liver or kidney disease or diabetes;
  • Have a weakened immune system due to HIV or treatments that supress the immune system such as chemotherapy;
  • Have had a stroke or TIA (transient ischaemic attack) or post-polio syndrome;
  • Are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility (not prison or university halls);.
  • Are the main carer for an elderly or disable person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill.
  • Contact your GP or pharmacist if you think you, or someone you care for, might qualify for a free flu jab. Further information seasonal flu vaccination winter 2013-14 - who should have it and why.

Keep your home warm, efficiently and safely

  • Heat your home to the right temperature: your living room should be 21°C (70°F), and your bedroom and the rest of the house heated to 18°C (65°F). Above this and you may waste money; below this you may risk your health. This will keep your home warm and may lower your bills.
  • 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 bed.
  • Get you heating system and cooking appliances checked and keep you home well ventilated.
  • Use your electric blanket as instructed and get it tested every three years. Never use a hot water bottle with an electric blanket.
  • Switch your appliances (such as TVs and microwaves) off rather than leaving them on standby.
  • Do not use a gas cooker or oven to heat your home; it is inefficient and there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and this can kill.
  • Make sure you have a supply of heating oil or LPG or sold fuel if you are not on mains gas or electricity - to make sure you do not run out in winter.

Keep the warmth in 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 to help keep heat generated inside your rooms.
  • Make sure your radiators are not obstructed by furniture or curtains.

Look after yourself:

  • Food is a vital source of energy and helps to keep your body warm so have plenty of hot food and drinks.
  • Aim to include five daily portions of fruit and vegetables. Tinned and frozen vegetables count toward your five a day.
  • Stock up on tinned and frozen foods so you don't have to go out too much when it's cold or icy.
  • Exercise is good for you all year round and it can keep you warm in winter.
  • If possible, try to move around at least once an hour. But remember to speak to your GP before starting any exercise plans.
  • Wear lots of thin layers - clothes made from cotton, wool or fleecy fibres are particularly good and maintain body heat.
  • Wear good-fitting slippers with a good grip indoors and shoes with a good grip outside to prevent trips, slips and falls.
  • Make sure you have spare medication in case you are unable to go out.

Look after others:

  • Check on older neighbours or relatives, especially those living alone or who have serious illnesses to make sure they are safe, warm and well.

More advice and tips are available from AgeUK on looking after older people in the community.

Get financial support:

There are grants, benefits and sources of advice to make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating or help with bills. It's worthwhile claiming all the benefits you are entitled to before winter sets in.

Flooding

The below tips in addition to the advice and support provided by the Environment Agency. Read more flooding advice

Download the PHE Flood advice leaflet PHE Flood advice leaflet (PDF, 5 MB) .

Before a flood

  • Consider preparing an emergency kit.  The British Red Cross provides suggestions on what might be useful to include. If necessary, be sure to include hearing aid batteries and dentures.
  • Be careful when moving family, pets or important belongings upstairs or to higher ground.

During a flood

  • Accidents happen in fast flowing floodwater. Avoid walking or driving in or near floodwater. 
  • Do not let children play in floodwater. You can wash soft toys on a 60 degree cycle with detergent and clean hard toys with hot water and detergent if they get wet.
  • Phone your Water Company or Council to ask if your water is safe to drink and wash.
  • If you have a baby, visit the  Food Standards Agency website to find out how to make baby food if your water is not safe.
  • If you swallow mud or floodwater watch out for diarrhoea, fever or abdominal pain for 10 days. See your GP if you do become unwell.
  • Remember that flooding is a stressful event and it is normal to feel anxious or upset. Take care of yourself and your family to avoid health and well being problems.

After a flood

  • Make sure your family takes their medicines and attend scheduled medical appointments. Dial '111' if you have non-urgent health concerns.
  • Take care about what you eat. Don't eat food that has come into contact with flood water and don't eat fresh food from the fridge or freezer if your electricity has been turned off.
  • Wash your hands regularly and clean work surfaces before and food preparation. If water is not available use hand sanitising gel or wet wipes. Cover wounds with waterproof plasters.
  • Wash clothes used for cleaning on a separate cycle from your other clothes.
  • Clean all hard surfaces (e.g. walls, floors) with hot water and detergent. Mould should disappear as your home dries out but if it persists, contact a specialist cleaner. Wash soft items (e.g. clothing, bedding and toys) on a hot cycle setting.
  • Place rubbish in hard bins or in rubbish bags away from your home. Dispose of dead rodents in a plastic bag, wearing rubber gloves.
  • Feeling tired, anxious and having difficulty sleeping is normal after you have been flooded. Contact friends and family for support as it can take a long time for life to return to normal.

Further information from Public Health England on health and flooding.

Windstorms

The most common effects on humans from windstorms are road traffic accidents (overturning vehicles, collisions with fallen trees) and individual accidents (being blown over, or struck by flying debris/masonry). Building failure represents a less significant, but still important, impact on human life (falling chimneys etc).

  1. Take care when driving as there may be fallen debris or tree branches on the roads
  2. If the windstorm causes loss of power, make sure generators used for emergency electricity supply are placed outside: the exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide which can kill.
  3. When cleaning up over a windstorm, look after yourself and be aware of the dangers of further accidents if repairing building damage
  4. Consider taking alternative transport if you normally cycle. Winds can easily blow you off your bike and cause serious injuries.

Snow and Ice

  1. If snow or icy weather is forecast, prepare well and make sure you have enough food and medicines for the next few days
  2. Limit unnecessary trips outside unless essential
  3. Wear shoes with good grips when walking outside and make sure pathways/drives are clear
  4. Check on neighbours and relatives who are elderly or unwell and see if they need anything or any help with clearing drives/pathways
  5. Be careful when driving as snow and ice on roads can cause serious road traffic accidents.

These are the key public health messages taken from the Cold Weather Plan 2013/2014  which are the key messages contained in the 'Keep Warm Keep Well' document.

Cold weather