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Cold weather prompts further health warnings from PHE

Public Health England (PHE) issues cold weather alerts and health warnings following the arrival of colder weather in some parts of England.

Frosty leaves and grass

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Another spell of cold weather has prompted PHE to once again warn people to look out for others and when planning activities, to consider the weather forecast.

The Met Office says the spell of cold will affect all parts of England this weekend and although not as severe as the event experienced in February and earlier this month, it will be cold everywhere with the possibility of widespread snow.

Dr Thomas Waite, a Consultant in Health Protection at Public Health England, said:

The weather has felt much milder for the last week or so but this weekend the forecasters tell us it will get much colder again. And that may come as a shock to the system for some whose bodies may struggle to cope in cold weather.

It’s worth remembering that cold temperatures – indoors and outdoors, can affect health, particularly in young children, older people and those with heart and lung conditions. So if you know someone in any of these groups, and most of us do, please keep an eye on them over the coming days make sure they’re heating their homes to at least 18 degrees and keeping an eye on the weather forecast.

Laura Patterson, Chief Operational Meteorologist at the Met Office, said:

A cold easterly airflow is expected to return during the weekend, likely lasting until Monday. At present, it looks unlikely to be as severe as the conditions experienced at the start of the month, but unusually low temperatures and some snowfall are still expected. Widespread frost, low daytime temperatures and a significant wind chill are likely to develop.

Snowfall looks likely across high ground in the north-east, Friday into Saturday, with snow showers following behind and affecting low-lying areas, especially in the south and east.

Previous updates

28 February 2018

Further snow and ice warnings across England have prompted PHE doctors to warn people in areas likely to be affected, to plan ahead now.

Forecasts from the Met Office suggest large parts of southern England will see freezing temperatures, significant snowfall and possibly even frozen rain over the next few days.

PHE’s Dr Thomas Waite said:

With more cold and for some snow on the way, now is the time to think ahead. Consider what you need to stock up on. Do you need food or essential supplies such as medicines? It may be harder for some people to get out later this week when more snow arrives, so if you know someone at risk, someone with heart or lung conditions, young children or someone who is over 65, please take the time to check and see if there’s anything they need.

Also, remember that we are not all used to temperatures like this so keep homes heated to at least 18 degrees. If you’re able to clear paths of snow or ice, do so. Everyone should keep up to date with weather forecasts so you’re not caught out. Staying well in conditions like this can be a challenge, so if you can check on someone whose health may be at risk, please do.

Met Office Chief Forecaster, Andy Page said:

This spell of weather is the coldest that parts of the UK have seen since at least 2013, with extremely low temperatures and disruptive snowfall in many parts throughout the rest of the week.

This weather could increase the health risks to vulnerable people and disrupt the delivery of services so it’s really important that everyone plans ahead, keep up to date with the forecast and warnings in their area, check for local travel information and follow the advice of local authorities and health professionals.

26 February 2018

With much of the country experiencing very cold weather, and some places forecast to see conditions not experienced for several years, PHE doctors are again reminding people to take care.

The Met Office has today repeated warnings that all parts of England are experiencing cold conditions and has described the weather as ‘exceptional’.

Dr Thomas Waite of PHE’s Extreme Events team said:

With many places facing severe weather it’s really important people do what they need to, to stay warm – especially with the cold forecast to stay for several days.

Heating homes to at least 18C will help keep you healthy. Also, make sure you eat warm food, move about at home and wear several thin layers instead of fewer thicker ones.

Those of us who are fit and well can also do lots to help others – and with weather like this, some will need help. If you’re able to, consider clearing snow or ice from pavements and paths, see if friends, family or neighbours who are left housebound by the weather need anything fetching and if you know anyone over 65, or with young children or with heart or lung conditions check to see if they’re ok.

Cold temperatures inside and out can make you ill and can even kill. Prolonged cold weather like this can be a challenge to all of us; remember that staying warm helps keep you healthy.

Frank Saunders, Met Office Chief Operational Meteorologist said:

An exceptionally cold spell of weather is expected this coming week, with severe overnight frosts, daytime temperatures struggling to rise above freezing, strong winds leading to a significant wind chill and disruptive snow at times, particularly from Tuesday onwards.

Overnight, snow showers will persist in eastern areas, with clear skies elsewhere. Early Tuesday, a band of snow will move southwestwards from north east England to north west England, with scattered heavy snow showers developing elsewhere. Wednesday will see more frequent and heavy snow showers, especially in the northeast and potentially far southern parts of Cornwall and Devon.

It will be bitterly cold, with daytime temperatures staying below freezing in many places. The wind will increase, and stay strong through to the end of the week, which as well as leading to a significant wind chill will also bring a risk of blowing snow and blizzard conditions.

23 February 2018

Fresh winter health warnings are being sounded by PHE after forecasts said next week will see temperatures fall and snow and ice for some.

The Met Office has forecast that temperatures will drop over the weekend and to prepare for a prolonged spell of cold.

Dr Thomas Waite, of PHE’s Extreme Events team, said:

Cold temperatures, indoors and out, pose real health risks to many and every winter we know that thousands of people get ill and even die following exposure to cold conditions. As forecasters tell us next week temperatures will fall, it’s critical that if you know anyone over 65, with young children or who has heart or lung conditions, that you keep an eye on them and think what help they may need. Staying warm by heating your home to at least 18°C can be crucial to stay well.

Paul Gunderson Chief Operational Meteorologist at the Met Office said:

Cold weather is currently established across the country with widespread overnight frosts. However colder conditions are expected to extend westwards across England during the weekend bringing a significant, and prolonged period of wintry weather. During Monday and Tuesday, snow showers are expected to move into eastern areas, before spreading westwards across England. These have the potential to align into bands, bringing some significant accumulations.

Not everyone will see snowfall, however, 5cm to 10cm is possible where showers do line up, with the greatest risk across eastern and southeastern counties. These will also be accompanied by bitterly cold temperatures and a significant wind chill. These cold, wintery conditions are then expected to continue Wednesday, and likely beyond.

5 February 2018

Forecasts that current cold weather is here to stay for a while, have prompted PHE to urge people to check on older friends, family and neighbours, who may feel isolated.

The Met Office has said that cold conditions, presently affecting all parts of the country, are likely to stay in place for several days, meaning most people will have to contend with snow, ice and low temperatures.

Spells of weather like this can put older people, those with underlying health conditions and young children, at risk from a range of conditions because cold weather forces their bodies to work much harder than usual.

Dr Angie Bone, of PHE’s Extreme Events team, said:

In events like this it’s possible that some people who are not in the best of health will stay at home, rather than risk venturing out in cold and icy conditions, and this can lead to feeling more isolated than usual.

That’s why as this colder period continues we should all check in on those we know, whether they’re friends, family or neighbours, who may be at risk, and offer to lend a helping hand. Do they need shopping or a prescription collecting? Can they get to GP or hospital appointments? Do they just need some company?

It can be all too easy for those of us who are fit and well and able to cope with the cold - but it’s really important to remember that it can leave some people feeling a bit cut off.

17 January 2018

Colder weather has arrived in northern England prompting PHE warnings.

The Met Office today said north east, north west and Yorkshire and the Humber regions were all experiencing cold weather and were likely to continue doing so until the weekend.

Dr Thomas Waite of the Extreme Events team said:

Cold weather like this is part of winter – but just because we’re used to it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take steps to protect ourselves from falling ill. Every winter thousands of people die from illnesses linked to exposure to the cold when indoor and outside – that’s why it’s so important we all look out for each other.

If you can check on family, friends and neighbours who are older, have young children or who have heart and lung conditions all these groups are particularly vulnerable to cold.

Keep a close eye on weather forecasts so you’re up to date with what’s happening in your area, keep homes heated to at least 18°C and remember wearing several thin layers can be more effective than fewer thicker ones.

5 January 2018

Another wave of cold weather, including the chance of ice and snow for some, has prompted PHE to urge people to keep homes warm and to keep an eye out for friends, family and neighbours.

The Met Office says that the weather will start to turn much colder from tonight (Friday 5 January 2018) with the cold creeping down the country from the north and that the bad weather could remain until early next week.

Dr Thomas Waite, of the PHE Extreme events team, said:

As temperatures drop it’s really important to think about what you can do to prepare for the cold and protect more vulnerable friends and family from the ill-effects of the cold.

Ensure they wear lots of thin layers, have plenty of warm food and drinks to stay warm and check weather forecasts before heading out. Also wear shoes with a good, slip-resistant grip to prevent any accidental falls and when indoors stay warm and heat homes to at least 18°C.

This advice is important for everyone but particularly important if anyone in the home is very young, 65 or over or has a long term health condition.

27 December 2017

Arrival of cold weather across Yorkshire and the Humber, the north east and north west of England that is due to spread across the rest of the country has prompted further warnings from Public Health England to look out for others and to take extra care during the cold, snowy conditions.

A band of rain, sleet and snow followed by a very cold and frosty period is forecast to spread southeast across the country from today until Saturday.

Because every winter cold triggers thousands of illnesses and deaths across the UK, PHE is urging people to wrap up warm and take extra care when out and about.

Dr Thomas Waite of the Extreme Events team at PHE said:

Cold weather like this is part of winter – but just because we’re used to it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take steps to protect ourselves from falling ill. Every winter thousands of people die from illnesses linked to exposure to the cold when indoors and outside – that’s why it’s so important we all look out for each other.

During this Christmas period many people will be out and about more, so it’s important to make sure you’re prepared when leaving the home. Also, there will be a number of people who will have been on their own all this time. If you can, check on family, friends and neighbours who are older, have young children or who have heart and lung conditions. All these groups are particularly vulnerable to cold.

Keep a close eye on weather forecasts so you’re up-to-date with what’s happening in your area, keep homes heated to at least 18°C and remember wearing several thin layers can be more effective than fewer thicker ones.

Steve Willington, Chief Meteorologist at the Met Office said:

A band of rain, sleet and snow will slowly clear east during Wednesday, with sunny but cold weather following. However some wintry showers could also move into North Sea coasts. A cold, breezy night follows with widespread frost, and a risk of ice. Thursday will then be cold and sunny, although wintry showers are likely to spread southeast from north west England into the Midlands. This will be followed by winds easing, and a very cold, and frosty overnight period. Milder conditions are expected to move across all parts by Saturday morning.

6 December 2017

Weather forecasters are warning that all parts of England could experience cold, snow and ice over the next week, prompting PHE to again warn people to plan ahead.

The change of weather will bring cold air to all parts of England from Thursday and is likely to affect all areas of the country over the weekend says the Met Office. At the same time, the Flood Forecasting Centre has reported a risk of coastal flooding impacts as high tides and strong winds affect the whole of the east coast of England and Cumbria.

Dr Thomas Waite of the Extreme Events team at PHE said:

It is unusual that we are warning about the risks from cold and floods at the same time, but that’s why it’s absolutely critical that people keep up to date with the Met Office’s weather forecasts and the Environment Agency’s flood warnings. There is lots we can do to prepare for cold weather. We can all keep an eye out for family, friends and neighbours who may be at risk.

Those with heart and lung conditions, younger children and older people, are at particular risk during cold weather. Experience shows us that every winter thousands of people are seriously affected and even die from illnesses linked to the cold. That’s why it’s so important that we all play a part in minimising the risks to health this winter.

If your home or business is at risk of flooding, you can sign up for flood warnings by phone, email or text message.

Steve Willington, Chief Meteorologist at the Met Office, said:

Cold Arctic air is expected to spread south across all parts of England through Thursday and Friday. A brisk northerly wind will give significant wind chill. Whilst many areas will remain dry with sunny spells through the day, occasional snow showers are expected giving localised accumulations and icy patches. These are possible anywhere, although most likely in north west and north east England, and east coastal areas. A band of rain moving east on Sunday and Monday may turn to sleet or snow in Midlands, and areas northwards, potentially producing further accumulations. This period of cold weather is then likely to continue into next week.

27 November 2017

PHE is issuing further take-care warnings after forecasts have predicted a prolonged cold spell for all of England.

On Friday, the Met Office issued warnings that the north was likely to see colder weather. Today (27 November 2017), they have extended that warning for the whole of England and said that cold conditions could last until Saturday.

Dr Thomas Waite, of PHE’s Extreme Events team, said:

As the weather is going to get colder everywhere in the coming days, this is a really good time to check on those who may be at risk. People with diseases such as heart and lung conditions, older people, and young children can feel the ill-effects of cold weather more than the rest of us.

To stay well this winter, we all need to play a part. Is there someone you know who could be at risk when the weather gets cold? Could you help them out by fetching shopping or prescriptions?

When the colder weather arrives there are several things we can do to keep well: wear several thin layers instead of fewer thicker ones, keep parts of the home you’re using heated to at least 18°C and keep a careful eye on the weather forecasts.

Laura Paterson, Chief Operational Meteorologist for the Met Office, said:

Colder air will gradually spread south during Monday and Tuesday, with overnight frosts becoming more widespread, along with a brisk northerly breeze.

A period of more widespread cold temperatures is then expected from Wednesday onward, whilst showers down the east coast are also expected to be wintry at times with some snow and ice possible.

24 November 2017

Keep warm keep well warnings are being issued by Public Health England (PHE) today (24 November 2017), as weather forecasts suggest the winter’s first blast of cold weather is on its way.

Met Office forecasters have said today that by tomorrow (Saturday) temperatures in the north east, north west and Yorkshire and the Humber will fall below 2°C.

This first drop in temperatures has prompted PHE’s Extreme Events team to remind people all over the country that before cold weather arrives is the best time to prepare.

Dr Thomas Waite of PHE’s Extreme Events team said:

We’re well used to winter in this country so most people know what to do to protect their health before and during cold spells.

But there are people who may not take precautions and who are at a very real risk. We know that every winter thousands of people fall ill and many die because of exposure to cold both in the home and while outdoors.

Those most at-risk include older people, very young children and those with conditions like heart and lung disease. That’s why every cold season we urge people to look out for family, friends and neighbours who may be at risk. Ask yourself if you could check on a neighbour to see if there’s anything they need?

Paul Gundersen, Chief Operational Meteorologist at the Met Office, said:

Colder air has now reached most parts of England, with temperatures expected to fall further by Saturday, when the cold will be accentuated by strengthening winds. Wintry showers are also likely in places, but any snow showers are expected to be confined largely to higher ground. A temporary incursion of warmer air is expected on Monday, with the colder air forecast to return by Tuesday.

Top tips to prepare for colder weather

You should:

  • look out for friends and family who may be vulnerable to the cold and ensure they have access to warm food and drinks and are managing to heat their homes adequately
  • try to maintain indoor temperatures to at least 18°C, particularly if you are not mobile, have long term illness or are 65 or over
  • stay tuned for weather forecasts, ensure you are stocked with food and medications in advance, have deliveries or ask a friend to help
  • take weather into account when planning your activity over the following days
  • seek entitlements and benefits such as Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments, which are available to some
  • avoid exposing yourself to cold or icy outdoor conditions if you are at a higher risk of cold related illness or falls.
  • discuss with friends and neighbours about clearing snow and ice from in front of your house and public walkways nearby

Power and utility companies have schemes which make at-risk groups a priority for reconnection following power cuts. Find out if you meet the criteria and if so, sign up. Visit ofgem.gov.uk for more information.

There’s lots of useful advice on the Stay Well This Winter website.

Dr Waite added:

We know that more deaths occur every winter in the UK than in the summer due to a wide range of causes including cold weather, influenza and other respiratory infections. The flu vaccination is the best protection we have against flu and it’s really important to have it if you are eligible. If we all keep a close eye out for each other over the coming months hopefully we’ll all be able to stay well this winter.

Published 24 November 2017
Last updated 15 March 2018 + show all updates
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