This guidance provides advice to help prepare and look after yourself and your health during the colder winter months. This includes:
- Simple steps to prepare and keep well during winter
- Staying alert to the weather
- Travelling safely
- Staying warm
- Keeping well
- Looking out for others
- Getting vaccinated
- Looking after your mental health
- Help and financial support available including with the cost of living
- Other useful information
Simple steps to prepare and keep well during winter
To help prepare for winter you can:
- set your heating between 18 to 21°C to keep warm and keep bills low
- get a flu jab from the NHS
- check for other vaccinations you may be eligible for (see getting vaccinated below)
- build up a stock of medicines
- stock up on essential food items including non-cook foods and long-life milk in case of a power cut
- have your heating and cooking appliances checked (remember carbon monoxide is a killer). Find a registered engineer on the Gas Safe website
- improve the insulation in your home and fit draught-proofing
Stay alert to the weather
Keep up to date with the latest forecast online, or with local and regional news programmes. You can check weather forecasts, and view or register for local weather alerts on the Met office website.
The Weather-Health Alerting System provided by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) in partnership with the Met Office, provides cold weather early warning alerts when temperatures are likely to impact on our health and wellbeing. You can register to receive these alerts online.
Check the forecast for your journey before you travel in wintery cold weather. Allow extra time, stay up to date with the latest weather conditions and alerts, and be prepared for weather changes on your route. See our tips for driving in wintery and wet weather here.
Low indoor temperatures can have a serious impact on your health, especially if you have medical conditions or are older. These simple changes can help keep your home warm:
- try to heat the rooms you spend most time in to at least 18°C
- try to reduce draughts (draught excluders can be fitted around doors cheaply)
- keep your bedroom windows closed at night
- have your heating and cooking appliances checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer to make sure they are working safely
- always check the electrical and fire safety and advice of any appliances before you use them. For advice on heating your home safely visit North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service
- contact your water and electricity suppliers to see if you can be on the Priority Services Register (a free support service that helps people in vulnerable situations)
- find out more about grants available to help make your home more energy efficient on our energy efficiency advice page
Heating the human, not the home, can also help reduce the costs of heating large spaces. Keep yourself warm by:
- layering clothes (add an extra layer under your normal clothing and wear thicker knitwear and fleeces)
- eating regularly (have at least one hot meal and hot drinks throughout the day)
- keeping your feet warm with non-slip slippers and socks
- keeping your hands warm with gloves
- moving around at least once an hour, even if it's just wiggling fingers and toes or stretching (try not to sit still for more than an hour)
- using hot water bottles (ensure they are sealed tightly, not filled with boiling water and stored empty)
- considering other heated devices like electric blankets (the Money Saving Expert has a full guide with more information)
Try to have the heating on even if lower than needed to keep you warm and ventilate rooms. Turning off central heating can cause issues like damp, mould, and frozen pipes. Advice about fixing damp and condensation from the Energy Saving Trust.
Keeping your baby and small children safe and warm when the weather gets colder is important. Wrapping up your baby to keep them warm can however result in overheating leading to sudden infant death syndrome. For advice on safer sleep for babies and very young children visit the Lullaby Trust.
The Warm Welcome campaign helps provide warm and welcome local community spaces. To register a venue or find a local space near you visit Warm Welcome Space website.
Ensure you continue to look after yourself and your health during the cold months:
- don’t delay treating minor winter ailments like colds or sore throats. Visit your pharmacist for advice or treatment
- keep in touch with friends, neighbours and family (reach out if you need help or feel unwell)
- wear shoes with good grips to avoid slips and falls on slippery or icy surfaces
- if bad weather is forecast, check you have enough medication and food
- eat well and stay hydrated
- if you are worried about your health, contact your local pharmacist, 111 or your GP for advice and support. In an emergency dial 999
Look out for others
Older neighbours or family friends may need extra support during cold weather. To help:
- keep in touch with them, check how they are feeling, and if they need any practical support
- see if they need help stocking up on food and medication if bad weather is forecast
If you are worried about someone else’s health, contact your local pharmacist, your GP or NHS 111, who 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
Many illnesses are more common during the winter months and the best way to protect yourself and those that you live or work with is to have all the vaccinations you are eligible for. You can check at Get vaccinated - Let's Get Better.
Flu and COVID-19 are two respiratory diseases that are highly infectious and can make you feel very unwell for up to two weeks. These are seasonal illnesses which means the virus changes each year and the vaccinations are altered to ensure they are effective. It is important to get vaccinated every year:
If you're at risk of getting seriously ill with pneumonia, it's recommended you get the pneumococcal vaccine. It protects against an infection that can cause pneumonia. Adults and children more at risk should also get a flu vaccine every year. For more information visit the NHS Pneumonia website
Shingles is an common condition that causes a painful rash, particularly in older adults. The shingles vaccine helps reduce your chance of getting shingles and the chances of getting serious problems if you do get shingles. Find out more about the shingles vaccine.
Look after your mental health
The winter months can be challenging for our mental well-being, with cold weather and shorter days potentially leading to increased sleep, appetite changes, and a decrease in activities we typically enjoy.
You should consult a GP for further guidance if Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) symptoms, a type of depression often experienced during the winter, are interfering with your daily life
For advice about improving your mental health and accessing local support visit webpages. For more information on the Ways to Wellbeing visit the NHS.
Help and financial support
There are various types of grants, benefits and financial support available to help keep your home warm. These include:
- winter fuel payments – a payment you could get to help pay your heating bills if you were born before 25 September 1957
- Warm Home Discount Scheme – a one-off discount you could get off your electricity bill over winter
- Cold Weather Payment – a payment you may receive if you get certain benefits
- North Yorkshire Home Efficiency Fund – in some areas you can apply for energy efficiency measures from schemes and grants in North Yorkshire
- cost of living support – local support schemes and organisations who may be able to help if you are struggling to pay for essentials. This includes Warm and Well North Yorkshire which provides funding or help with minor repairs to help make your home warmer.
- Household Support Fund – financial support you may be able to get towards energy and water bills, food and essential items
You can also check you are receiving all the benefits you are entitled on the government's heating and housing benefits page. Find out about the Local assistance fund in North Yorkshire.
Other useful information
- North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum provides advice on community emergency plans and further information on what to do in an emergency. Check what’s already available in your local area with your local parish council, or other community organisation.
- the winter health page on the Age UK website provides information about preparing for winter, and keeping yourself warm, healthy and safe during the winter months.
- Get more advice on staying well this winter on the NHS website
- Find out more about staying safe in cold weather on Keeping warm and well: staying safe in cold weather