Health warning issued as temperatures start to fall

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Fresh winter health warnings are being issued by Public Health England (PHE) after forecasts say next week will see temperatures fall, bringing snow and ice to some parts of the region.

The Met Office has forecast that temperatures will drop over the weekend and for people to prepare for a prolonged spell of cold.

In the South-East, It has been predicted that it will be cold at first, and increasingly turning very cold, especially overnight with widespread frosts.

Snow showers are likely from Monday onwards with significant wind chill at times

James Mapstone, Deputy Regional Director for PHE’s South region, said: “We are expecting some bitter weather over the weekend and early next week which may come as a bit of a shock for some after the more recent mild weather.

“We urge people to remember to check weather forecasts and plan their day carefully around the weather. Take extra care if outside to prevent any accidental slips from icy or snowy pavements. Clear paths outside your house if possible.

“When indoors it is critical that people stay warm, particularly if you’re 65 or over, have long term health conditions or young children. Wear lots of thin layers, eat regular warm and well-balanced meals, and remember that moving about will help keep you warm. We know as the weather gets cold we see more people with strokes and heart conditions. There are some simple ways to reduce these risks - giving up smoking and keeping rooms above 18 degrees C or 65 degrees Fahrenheit help. Also think about helping any vulnerable neighbours and if you think they could be having a stroke Act FAST and call 999.”

Dr Thomas Waite, of PHE’s Extreme Events team, said: “Cold temperatures, indoors and out, pose real health risks to many, and every winter we know that thousands of people get ill and even die following exposure to cold conditions. As forecasters tell us next week temperatures will fall, it’s critical that if you know anyone over 65, with young children or who has heart or lung conditions, that you keep an eye on them and think what help they may need. Staying warm by heating your home to at least 18C can be crucial to stay well.”

Paul Gunderson, Chief Operational Meteorologist at the Met Office said: “Cold weather is currently established across the country with widespread overnight frosts. However colder conditions are expected to extend westwards across England during the weekend bringing a significant, and prolonged period of wintry weather. During Monday and Tuesday, snow showers are expected to move into eastern areas, before spreading westwards across England. These have the potential to align into bands, bringing some significant accumulations.

“Not everyone will see snowfall, however 5-10cm is possible where showers do line up, with the greatest risk across eastern and southeastern counties. These will also be accompanied by bitterly cold temperatures, and a significant wind chill. These cold, wintery conditions are then expected to continue Wednesday, and likely beyond.”

The Cold Weather Plan for England, available at www.gov.uk/phe sets out a series of actions that health and social care organisations, voluntary groups, and individuals can take to help reduce cold-related illnesses and deaths.

Top tips to prepare for colder weather:

- Look out for friends and family who may be vulnerable to the cold and ensure they have access to warm food and drinks and are managing to heat their homes adequately.

- Try to maintain indoor temperatures to at least 18C, 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.

- If eligible seek entitlements and benefits such as Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments, which are available to some.

- If you meet the criteria register for priority service with your energy and water suppliers.

- 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.