News story

Health warnings issued for colder weather

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

Latest update

Further weather warnings are being sounded today (19 January 2017) by PHE.

Earlier today the Met Office extended a cold weather alert issued earlier this week to cover all regions of England - this means there’s a high likelihood of low temperatures which could be a health risk for some - and warned people everywhere else that a spell of colder weather is most likely on its way. In addition, the alert level in the southwest, southeast and east of England as well as London was increased, as cold weather continues in these regions.

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

The cold weather is forecast to continue for several more days, and in periods of cold people with long term health conditions, very young children and older people are at greatest risk of ill health.

So if you’re at risk, or if you know someone you can help, now is the time to act. Keep your home heated to at least 18C, wear several thinner layers instead of fewer thicker ones and don’t delay in visiting the pharmacist for minor winter ailments.

Also think if there’s anyone at risk who you can check on - if we all do our bit we can all stay warm and well this winter.

Previous updates

11 January 2017

Snow and ice forecasts for large parts of England have prompted fresh take care warnings from PHE.

The Met Office has forecast bad weather in all parts of England from this afternoon (11 January 2017). Widespread snow and ice is expected and it may persist until Sunday.

Because of this PHE is urging people to take action to keep themselves and others warm and well over the coming days.

Simple actions we can all take include keeping up to date with local weather forecasts, stocking up on food, medicines and other essentials and taking care if they you go out and about.

Prof Paul Cosford, Director for Health Protection and Medical Director at PHE, said:

The Met Office is forecasting a spell of colder weather from this afternoon, with likely snow and icy conditions. Think now about what you need to do to prepare: if you need vital medicine or food get it before the bad weather arrives. People with underlying health conditions, very young children and those aged over 65 are at greatest risk, so think what you can do to help others.

Keeping your home heated to at least 18°C, wearing lots of thin layers instead of fewer thicker ones, and (if you have to head out) using footwear with a good grip are all ways to deal with this weather and stay well this winter.

Paul Gundersen, Met Office Chief Meteorologist said:

The weather will become increasingly cold and windy as polar air spreads south across the country on Wednesday, with widespread severe frosts and significant wind chill. Wintry showers are also likely to affect many areas, most likely falling as snow over higher ground but occasionally also to low ground, especially where showers occur inland overnight.

On Thursday, a band of rain spreading from the west across southern parts is likely to turn wintry during the afternoon, with the potential for heavy snow in places. As this clears through the evening, with clear skies there is a risk of a widespread frost and icy conditions quickly forming. With wintry weather expected across much of the UK, it’s a good idea to keep in touch with the latest forecast and our weather warnings.

Prof Cosford added:

It’s most likely the snow will impact people in northern counties first, before spreading southwards across England. So the most important things we can all do is to keep warm, keep a close eye on the weather forecasts and think about what you can do to prepare and help others.

9 January 2017

Forecasts of the winter’s first nationwide snowfall, likely to be accompanied by cold weather and ice, have prompted take care warnings from PHE.

The Met Office said today (9 January 2017) that from later this week snow may fall across England, affecting northern areas first, reaching more southern areas later in the week.

Dr Thomas Waite, of the Extreme Events and Health Protection team at Public Health England, said:

After the brief respite from cold at the beginning of this week, several days of cold temperatures will return for some from Wednesday with snow and ice forecast in many places later.

Although some will enjoy the winter’s first widespread snow, others may find getting out and about a challenge. It’s worth thinking ahead now about what you may need before the snow arrives, such as food and medicines, so you don’t have to make trips out during bad weather. Critically keep a close eye on the Met Office weather forecasts over the coming days.

There’s lots of useful advice online, particularly the Keep Warm, Keep Well webpages.

3 January 2017

Health warnings are being repeated today by PHE as the Met Office forecasts another spell of cold weather. The new forecast suggests that cold weather will set in early on Wednesday 4 January and remain at least until the weekend, bringing very cold conditions to all regions of England.

Dr Angie Bone, of PHE’s extreme events team, said:

We have experienced some very cold weather over the past week and the latest Met Office forecast suggests that’s going to continue for the next few days, and particularly the nights.

That’s why it’s so important that over the coming days we all keep a close eye on those most at-risk, older people, those with young children and those with heart and lung conditions.

Keeping homes heated to at least 18°C, wearing lots of thin layers instead of fewer thick ones, and keeping as active as possible, can really help you avoid the health problems from cold and stay well this winter.

30 December

Fresh warnings are being issued by Public Health England today, as the Met Office forecasts a return of the cold weather which struck earlier this week.

The latest forecasts suggest that another spell of cold weather will impact all parts of England from Sunday and last until Tuesday.

Because of this PHE is today urging people to keep an eye out for those most at risk over the coming days and particularly over the Bank Holiday.

Dr Thomas Waite, of PHE’s extreme events team, said:

Every winter thousands of people die because of their exposure to cold weather and 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 coming cold temperatures 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 at risk from the ill-effects of cold so think now what you could do to help. Keeping homes heated to at least 18°C is a great way to avoid the health problems from cold, as is 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.

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 Winterand Keep Warm Keep Well web pages have also got lots of useful advice.

28 December

Warnings have been issued across parts of England after forecast colder weather arrived across North West England, Yorkshire and the Humber, West Midlands, East Midlands and East of England.

A level 3 cold weather alert is declared when average temperatures have fallen, or are about to fall, to 2°C and if either widespread ice or heavy snow is present. The level 3 alert for the above regions is forecast to continue until Friday morning. A level 2 (alert and readiness alert) is in place for all other regions of England.

Dr Thomas Waite, consultant in Extreme Events and Health Protection at Public Health England said:

The effects of cold can be severe, in particular for those who are over 65, have a long term illness, or are not mobile. Our advice to these groups is when indoors, have plenty of warm food and drinks and try to maintain indoor temperatures to at least 18C. If mobility isn’t an issue, keep active as best you can. If you need to go out wear lots of thin layers and shoes with a good, slip-resistant grip to prevent any accidental falls. It is particularly cold at night this week, so drawing the curtains at dusk will keep the heat in.

This is also the time to think about how the cold temperatures may affect your friends and family, particularly if they are older or very young or have long term health conditions as they are particularly at risk from the ill-effects of cold. Think now what you could do to help them.

Cold does kill, even in places where the temperatures aren’t at their lowest. Most of the practical advice on keeping warm in cold weather may seem like common sense, but it’s important that we all help each other to stay well this winter.

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

Cold weather is likely over the next few days with high pressure allowing fog and frost to form overnight. The fog may be slow to clear from some inland central and southern areas leading to low daytime temperatures, with some places struggling to rise above freezing.

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, 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


For further advice see

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

Public Health England’s 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

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