Protect yourself against the cold, health bosses urge

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THE ELDERLY, young and those with chronic illnesses are being advised to protect themselves against the cold, following predictions of severe winter weather over the next few days.

NHS Derbyshire County said the issue of a ‘Level 3’ cold weather alert – raised by the Department of Health when the weather is forecast to pose significant health risks – means that simple precautions need to be taken to prevent the most vulnerable from the life-threatening effects of the cold.

According to the Met Office, a prolonged cold spell is likely to take hold over the next few days – with overnight temperatures set to plunge to -4°C on Thursday night. Daytime temperatures are also set to struggle to go above zero during the course of the week. Last year 581 people needlessly died in Derby and Derbyshire because of higher levels of heart attacks, strokes and respiratory illnesses brought on by the cold weather.

Dr Bruce Laurence, acting director of public health for NHS Derbyshire County, said: “We’ve had a mild winter so far, but plunging temperatures and freezing conditions do take their toll on the most vulnerable. In some cases it can be a killer.

“A Cold Weather Alert of 3 has been raised by the Department of Health, so we’re urging anyone who is old, pregnant, suffers from a long-lasting illness or is particularly vulnerable for any other reason to take necessary precautions to protect themselves. These include avoiding going out unnecessarily when it is very cold, wrapping up warm when outside, wearing several light layers instead of one chunky layer, and keeping living room temperatures to around 18-21°C during the day and bedroom temperatures above 18°C overnight.

“Hot meals and drinks can also keep up energy levels, so try to drink regularly and have at least one hot meal a day if possible. Keeping curtains drawn and doors closed to block out draughts can likewise help prevent cold air circulating – which can aggravate health and lead to potentially life-threatening heart problems, strokes, and respiratory illnesses.”

Health bosses are also reminding anyone over 65, pregnant women and those with chronic illnesses to get their free flu jab by contacting their GP surgery.

“GP surgeries are still offering the winter flu jab to any qualifying patients – so it’s not too late to protect yourself against the crippling consequences of the virus,” Dr Laurence added. It is scientifically impossible to get the flu from having the jab.