It’s really important to keep warm in Winter, whether we’re staying indoors or getting out and about. It can help to prevent colds, flu and other health conditions that the cold weather can make worse. Especially for people aged 65 or over, or those with long-term health conditions.
We often have an increase in flu during the winter months. Besides keeping warm, the flu vaccine gives the best protection against the flu. Flu vaccines help protect against the main types of flu viruses, and if you do get flu after vaccination it’s likely to be milder and not last as long. This year it is more important than ever that you take the offer to get your free flu jab if you’re eligible.
Find out more about protecting yourself and your loved ones from Flu
If you’re eligible, you’ll be offered a seasonal booster dose. You can book online if you are eligible. You can find more information about the seasonal booster on the NHS website.
It’s worth checking what benefits you could claim before winter begins.
Make time to move around a little every day. Moving around has massive health benefits for us all, and any exercise we do is better than none! You don’t need to go to a gym to get more active. There are lots of ways to move well at home and in our local outdoor spaces too. Give your energy levels a boost by breaking up the day with some chunks of movement. Find out how with #MoveMoreSandwell
It is so important to get medical help as soon as you feel unwell, especially if you are aged 65 or in one of the other high risk groups.
You can get help and advice from your local a pharmacy. Pharmacists can give treatment advice for a range of minor illnesses and can tell you if you need to see a doctor. You may be able to speak to a GP online or over the phone, or go in for an appointment if they think you need to
You should heat your home to a temperature that is comfortable for you. Low indoor temperatures can have a serious impact on your health. Especially, if you have medical conditions or are older.
Simple changes can help to keep you and your home warm. These include:
People in financial difficulty may find it more difficult to heat their homes. This increases the risk of becoming unwell due to cold exposure. There are grants, benefits and sources of advice available to help you, make your home more energy efficient,improve your heating or help manage energy bills. There are also support measures in place to help with the cost of living, especially for those on low incomes. If you claim certain benefits or tax credits, you may be eligible for an extra payment to help with the cost of living. The government has published energy saving tips to help save money on bills.
There are other things you can do to reduce risks from cold exposure to yourself and others around you.
When you are indoors, there are things you can do that will help to keep you warm:
try not to sit still for more than an hour or so
if you find it difficult to move about, stretching your arms and legs can also help keep you warm
if you have visitors, it can help stop the spread of germs to ventilate the room for a few minutes before and after they arrive. You might be more comfortable leaving the window open during their visit, if it’s not too cold
When out and about, wear shoes with good grip to avoid slips and falls on slippery or icy surfaces.
If bad weather is forecast, plan ahead and check that you’ve got enough medication and food in case it’s harder to leave the house. If you cannot leave the house, try to identify others who might be able to help pick up food and medication on your behalf. The NHS CARE Volunteer Responders scheme may be able to provide help for those who are eligible for support.
Other people around you may need extra support during cold weather. To support others you can:
keep in touch with them and ask whether they are feeling unwell, or whether they need any practical help
if bad weather is forecast, see if they need any help stocking up on food and medication
if you are worried about someone else’s health, contact your local pharmacist, your GP or NHS 111. They will all be able to offer advice and support
if you think they may have hypothermia, contact NHS 111 for further assessment, and in an emergency dial 999. Typical signs that someone may be suffering from hypothermia include shivering, slow breathing, tiredness or confusion, and pale, cold skin
Longer term improvements to your house can greatly improve your comfort but can be expensive. You can check your energy performance certificate (EPC) if available for potential improvements. Depending on the kinds of changes recommended to you, consider speaking to a professional. Depending on what you can afford, options may include:
regular servicing of your heating appliances can keep them working better and for longer, saving you money
insulation for water pipes to prevent them from freezing in cold weather
internal, cavity or external wall insulation
double (or triple) window glazing
Find out more about eligibility for support with energy efficiency improvements through ‘Help to Heat’. If you need financial or energy efficiency support, you can contact your local authority to see what support is available in your area.
The Energy Saving Trust has tips on things you can do, including advice on more efficient ways to heat your home and improving insulation.
It is important to make sure that household appliances are safe and working properly. To do this you can:
have your heating and cooking appliances checked by a Gas Safe® registered engineer to make sure they are working.
have a carbon monoxide alarm (EN 50291 compliant) fitted
have things like boiler flues and chimneys checked for blockages and cleared if necessary
contact your water and power suppliers to see if you can be on the Priority Services Register. This is a free support service that helps people in vulnerable situations
It is important we improve the way we burn at home. Air pollution is the biggest environmental risk to public health.
Using a stove or open fire at home is a major contributor of a pollutant called fine particulate matter (known as PM2.5). These tiny particles can damage your lungs and other organs and can be harmful to your health.
Making small changes to how you burn can provide benefits such as:
Improving the air we all breathe by reducing the amount of pollution produced.
Keeping you and your family safe by reducing the risk of chimney fires.
Helping you get the most out of your stove or open fire so that it performs better – by using less fuel to produce more heat.
Here are steps you can take to burn better for the environment, the community and for your health.
Regular maintenance of your stove or open fire means it will:
use less fuel to produce more heat
produce fewer harmful particles.
To properly maintain your stove, you should:
Make sure your stove is installed by a registered installer. Use the HETAS website to find a registered installer.
Get your stove serviced once a year. If you’re unsure if your stove’s installation was correct, you can get this checked at your annual service.
Always use your stove in line with the manufacturer and installer’s guidance. This includes only burning suitable fuels.
Also, there are actions you can take to help maintain both your stove or open fire.
You should regularly:
– Clean out the ash.
– Check firebricks for cracks.
– Clean the stove glass.
– Check the seal around the stove door.
– Clean the outside of stove or open fire.
It’s important to get your chimney swept at least once a year by a chimney sweep. This helps to maintain your stove or open fire. Soot and tar build up in your chimney over time. This reduces its efficiency and increasing the risk of chimney fires.
Putting a reminder in your calendar is a useful way to remember to get your chimney swept each year.
Find a chimney sweep through:
Traditional house coal and wet wood are two of the most polluting fuels. The sale of these have been phased out in England. This is to help improve the air we breathe and help householders choose cleaner fuels.
Cleaner alternatives, such as dry wood and manufactured solid fuels, produce less smoke and pollution. They are also cheaper and more efficient to burn.
You should always check which fuel types are recommended for your appliance. Using the wrong fuel could damage your appliance, affect your chimney, and invalidate your warranty.
Which fuels should I burn?
If you buy fuel with the ‘Ready to Burn’ logo, you can be confident that you are choosing the cleanest available fuels. The Ready to Burn logo shows that:
Wood (sold in volumes of less than 2m3) has a moisture content of 20% or less.
Manufactured solid fuels (such as briquettes and fire logs) meet sulphur and smoke emission limits.
You can find the logo on the fuel’s packaging, alongside it on the shelf or next to the price. This will be with the manufacturer or supplier’s details and a certification number.
Make sure any wood you burn at home is dry (this means it has a moisture content of 20% or less). When burnt, wet wood with a moisture content above 20% produces lots of smoke, particles and tar deposits. This can damage your health and the environment. It can also damage your appliance and chimney. This increases maintenance costs and the risk of chimney fires. Dry wood produces less smoke and has better heat efficiency.
If you buy wood in volumes under 2m3, you can check the wood has less than 20% moisture by seeing if it has the ‘Ready to Burn’ logo.
If you buy wood in volumes over 2m3 or source your own wood, you should:
– Store it in a dry area, allowing the logs to air dry for at least 2 years before burning.
– Use a moisture meter to check that moisture levels are 20% or less before burning.
Check for signs your wood is ready to burn if you cannot use a moisture meter:
Weight – when comparing similar sized logs and the same species, if the log is heavier this can show it is still wet.
Sound – a hollow sound when tapping indicates dry logs.
Cracked ends – can suggest dry logs.
Bark – the looser the bark the drier the log.
Colour – dry wood can be lighter in colour.
Where possible, look for sustainably sourced wood. Check it comes from a sustainably managed woodland that is nearby.
Do not burn treated wood, such as painted, stained or chemically treated wood. These release dangerous pollutants which could have a serious impact on human health.
You can find your local wood supplier through the Ready to Burn website.
Before purchasing manufactured solid fuels, check your stove’s manual to make sure which fuels you can use. Incorrect use can cause damage to your appliance.
You should look for the approved ‘Ready to Burn’ logo. Check this list of fuels that are approved for burning in smoke control areas and can be used more widely.
These manufactured solid fuels are exempt from the Ready to Burn certification requirements:
Fuels where they are mostly made of wheat husks, straw, miscanthus, bamboo or compressed food waste.
The World Health Organization classifies coal smoke as a carcinogen (a substance capable of causing cancer). You can no longer buy the most polluting coal (bituminous/traditional house coal) for domestic use.
If you used to burn traditional house coal, consider switching to alternative types of coal. For example, anthracite, semi anthracite and low volatile steam coal. These smokeless coals produce less harmful particulates and can be used in smoke control areas.
Traditional house coal extracted and sold from the Forest of Dean is exempt. This can continue to be sold locally.
If you need support to continue living independently at home, contact Sandwell Council’s adult social care services for advice, information and help.
If you are feeling lonely or isolated this can also lead to low mood. There are services that can offer regular chats on the telephone.