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National NHS campaign urges people to stay warm this winter


8 November 2016

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A national campaign to help people prepare for winter weather has been launched by NHS England and Public Health England.

The Stay Well This Winter campaign aims to encourage people with long-term health conditions and the over 65s to prepare for the lower temperatures.

Around 25,000 more people die over the winter compared to other times of the year and a range of conditions worsened by the cold weather.

A national campaign to help people prepare for winter weather has been launched by NHS England and Public Health England.

The Stay Well This Winter campaign aims to encourage people with long-term health conditions and the over 65s to prepare for the lower temperatures.

Around 25,000 more people die over the winter compared to other times of the year and a range of conditions worsened by the cold weather.

Some 80% of these deaths are accounted for by people with circulatory diseases, such as heart disease, lung illnesses and stroke, and respiratory diseases, such as asthma.

Exposure to cold indoor or outdoor temperatures increases blood pressure, thereby increasing the risk of heart failure, kidney disease, stroke or dementia.

Cold temperatures can also make blood more likely to clot, which can lead to heart attacks and stroke.

The cold can also affect the respiratory system, which reduces the lung’s ability to fight off infection explaining why lower temperatures are linked with bronchitis and pneumonia.

Colder weather is not only associated with an increase in deaths but also has a significant impact on the number of people becoming ill, increasing the winter pressures felt by the health care services.

Research shows that for every one degree centigrade drop below five degrees in outdoor temperatures, there is more than a 10% increase in older people consulting their GP for breathing problems, a 0.8% increase in emergency hospital admissions and a 3.4% increase in deaths.

The campaign, which will be seen on TV, radio and social media, urges people to be ready for the colder season and to seek immediate advice and help from a pharmacist as soon as they feel unwell, before their condition gets more serious.

Professor Keith Willett, medical director for acute care at NHS England said: “The NHS is here to help but there are important things we can all do to take care of ourselves during the winter months. It is vital that the most vulnerable people take preventative steps to keep healthy and stay well.

“We have a high number of A&E attendances over this time that are due to issues which could have been avoided had people sought advice at the first sign of illness.

“We are urging people to take practical steps such as to wrap up warm before the temperature dial hits freezing. Research shows even at above freezing temperatures, for every one degree centigrade drop below five degrees, there is a resulting increase in older people consulting their GP for breathing problems, as well as an increase in deaths.”

Experts are also advising people to heat their homes to at least 18°C and to look out for those at increased risk of illness over the winter months.

Cold and damp homes can contribute to poor mental health and social isolation, which are also key factors in increased winter deaths and disease.

One study showed that residents of the 25% coldest homes have around a 20% greater risk of dying during the winter months than those in the warmest homes.

Professor Paul Cosford, director for health protection and medical director at Public Health England, said: “Throughout the cold weather, looking out for yourself and others is essential to keeping healthy. With winter on the way, now is a good time to make sure you, and those you know who may be particularly at risk from the cold, are as prepared as possible.

“If you qualify for the free flu jab, get it now. Also remember that eating a healthy, balanced diet and that staying physically active can keep you healthy.”

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