Helping you to prepare and reduce the effects of extreme weather conditions on your health
In 2010/11, there were 23,700 more deaths in England between the months of December 2010 and March 2011 than were observed over the rest of the year - a large proportion of these are thought to be due to cold weather. Cold temperatures can cause physiological effects such as thicker blood, increase in blood pressure and tightening of the airways - making people who already have chronic conditions even more vulnerable.
There is a link between the onset of cold weather and deaths from both heart attacks and respiratory illnesses. Older people are particularly at risk as they do not feel the cold until their body temperature falls. People with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) also have a significantly increased risk of ill-health and hospitalisation during periods of cold weather and high levels of circulating respiratory infections.
We work closely with the Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency to identify when winter weather is likely to significantly impact people's health, we also work in partnership to develop the Cold Weather Plan for England. The Plan, which aims to reduce the impact of severe cold weather on people's health, provides advice for individuals, communities and agencies on how to prepare for and respond to severe cold weather.
The Cold Weather Plan for England is linked to a winter weather warning system developed by the Met Office called the Cold Weather Alert service. The service operates in England from 1 November to 31 March every year. Cold Weather Alerts are sent to NHS Trusts in England, and Age UK, to ensure that staff and resources are fully prepared for any cold weather periods, heavy snow and / or widespread ice, and that those who are more vulnerable to cold weather conditions are aware and prepared. Cold Weather Alerts are also issued on our website, via weather forecasts on TV and radio and also via our Twitter feed. Cold Weather Alerts are also issued on our website, via weather forecasts on TV and radio and also via our Twitter feed.
This year the Met Office is hosting the Get ready for winter web pages on behalf of HM Government and partners. These pages host a range of information and advice to help you, your family and your community prepare for winter weather. This includes a page on health and wellbeing that gives practical steps that you can take to help keep warm and healthy throughout the winter months.