Cold weather health watch
The Cold Weather Plan, which we work on in partnership with Public Health England, and the associated Cold weather health watch service help to inform key responders and carers about the likelihood of cold weather
They also raise awareness amongst the public about the effects of cold weather, reduce avoidable winter mortality and alleviate pressures on health and social care services during the winter months.
Cold temperatures can cause physiological effects such as thicker blood, increased blood pressure and tightening of the airways - making people who already have conditions such as chronic lung disease and asthma even more vulnerable. People with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) also have a significantly increased risk of ill-health and hospitalisation during periods of cold weather, as well as periods where there are high levels of circulating respiratory infections. Elderly people are particularly at risk as they may not feel the cold until their body temperature falls.
Our Cold weather health watch service operates in England from 1 November to 31 March every year, when 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 and those who are more vulnerable to cold weather conditions are aware and prepared. This information is also issued on our website, via weather forecasts on TV and radio and also via our Twitter link.
Alerts will be issued if the mean temperature in a particular region will be at 2 °C or less for a period of 48 consecutive hours, or if a Severe Weather Warning has been issued for heavy snow or widespread ice through our Severe weather warnings.
To help raise awareness of these alerts, we have produced a poster in partnership with the NHS. The poster informs people about the alerts and signposts them to further information about cold weather and health.