News story

Cold weather health warning

Cold weather forecasts have prompted warnings to take care from Public Health England (PHE).

A frosty leaf on grass.

Latest update

Cold weather alerts have been sounded today (2 December) for 6 regions of England, prompting PHE to encourage people to think more about looking out for those at-risk.

The Met Office today said that people in the North West, North East, Yorkshire and Humber, East Midlands, West Midlands and the East of England, should prepare for a spell of cold weather, forecast for between Saturday and Monday afternoon. The remaining parts of England are not yet expected to experience the colder weather.

Dr Thomas Waite, consultant in Extreme Events, said:

Every winter thousands of people die because of their exposure to cold weather and we also know that every winter doctors’ surgeries, hospitals and other parts of the NHS are kept busy as people fall ill - that’s why it’s really important that we all do everything we can to ensure everyone stays well this winter.

Think about how the bad weather may affect your friends, family and neighbours, particularly if they are older or very young or have pre-existing health conditions. These groups can be particularly vulnerable to the ill-effects of cold so think now what you could do to help. We advise keeping homes heated to at least 18C, stocking up on food and medicine before cold weather sets in and wearing lots of thin layers instead of fewer thick ones.

Much of this is common sense but there are people at very real risk when temperatures drop. Now is the time to think about what we can all do for ourselves and others.

Previous updates

28 November

All parts of England, except for London, are likely to experience colder conditions in the coming days, according to the Met Office which today declared a Level 2 cold weather alert.

All the affected regions are likely to experience prolonged low night and daytime temperatures.

Dr Angie Bone of the Extreme Events team at PHE said:

Cold does kill, even in places where the temperatures aren’t at their lowest. Now is the time to prepare for the cold weather forecast by the Met Office, and to think of those you know who are older, very young, or have pre-existing health conditions who are particularly vulnerable. You can find more advice on the Stay Well This Winter and Keep Warm Keep Well webpages.

Andy Page, Chief Operational Meteorologist at the Met Office, said:

High pressure will bring generally dry and settled conditions this week, with clear skies and light winds allowing a widespread frost to occur on Monday and Tuesday night. From Wednesday onwards cloudier and slightly less cold conditions will arrive across northern England, therefore overnight frosts will become fewer and less severe in the north but cold weather may persist across the south where skies remain clearer.

Looking ahead into December and beyond, there are indications that a cold start to winter is more likely than normal, but this doesn’t guarantee snow nor does it mean we won’t see spells of mild and wet weather at times. Our forecast pages can help you plan for the winter weather. You can also find tips and advice for travelling in cold conditions to help you get ready for winter.

The Cold Weather Plan for England sets out a series of actions that health and social care organisations, voluntary and community groups, and individuals can take and plan for cold temperatures to help reduce cold-related illnesses and deaths. The Stay Well This Winter and Keep Warm Keep Well web pages have also got lots of useful advice.

The top tips to prepare for colder weather are to:

  • get the free flu jab now if you qualify
  • look out for friends and family who may be vulnerable to the cold and ensure they have access to warm food, drinks and 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
  • 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, if unable to do so yourself


More information about the Cold-Weather Alert system from the Met Office.

Public Health England mission is to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities through working with national and local government, the NHS, industry and the voluntary and community sector. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. Follow us on Twitter: @PHE_uk and Facebook:

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Watch our video cold weather and our health.

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Published 28 November 2016
Last updated 2 December 2016 + show all updates
  1. Updated story with latest alert for North West, North East, Yorkshire and Humber, East Midlands, West Midlands and the East of England.
  2. First published.