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Nov 8th 2016

Sub-zero temperatures are expected to sweep across Britain this week after the first cold snap of the year, prompting warnings that vulnerable people should prepare for a freezing winter.

The chilly weather coincides with the launch of a major NHS campaign urging people with long-term health conditions and the over-65s to take action in an effort to reduce the 25,000 extra deaths that occur each winter.

Prof Keith Willett, medical director for acute care at NHS England, said: “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 that could have been avoided had people sought advice at the first sign of illness.”

The Stay Well This Winter campaign will use TV, radio and social media to encourage people to wrap up warm and consult a pharmacist as soon as they feel unwell rather than waiting. It also encourages people, particularly those with long-term illnesses or mobility problems, to heat their homes to at least 18C (65F) and to check on friends and neighbours who may be vulnerable.

Prof Paul Cosford, director for health protection at Public Health England, said: “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.”

He added that assistance with heating costs is available to those who might need it. “There are a variety of ways you can apply for help to keep your house warm, such as winter fuel payments, warm home discounts and cold weather payments. If you meet the criteria, register for priority service with your energy and water suppliers.

“Try to maintain indoor temperatures to at least 18°C (65°F), particularly if you find it hard to get around, have a long-term illness or are 65 or over. You may prefer your living room to be slightly warmer,” he said.

Cold weather increases the risk of heart failure, kidney disease, stroke or dementia, as well as making heart attacks and strokes more likely.

For each degree centigrade the temperature falls below five degrees, there is a 10% increase in the number of older people seeing their GP about breathing problems, a 0.8% increase in emergency hospital admissions, and a 3.4% increase in deaths, research shows.

The UK shivered through a chilly Bonfire night, as temperatures fell below freezing in places, snow fell on higher ground and biting winds made conditions feel colder. On Sunday night temperatures outside the south-east were expected to fall below zero across much of the country.

A little frost can turn a winter scene into a very pretty picture, but not for everybody, if you are a soft fruit grower the last thing you want to see if your fruit trees covered in a layer of frozen dew, and when a wet road freezes it can turn your journey to work into a nightmare skating rink, black ice on the walkways has been the cause of very many accidents.

The picture above shows a tree with a heavy layer of ice caused by a prolonged low temperature spell and its effect on the moisture in the air, and icicle falling from your gutter turns into a dangerous missile so don’t stand underneath admiring the beautiful show, stand well back where you are safe.

If it takes you five minutes to clear your vehicle windscreen and windows, and you’re only one of 10,000 others doing exactly the same job, that’s a lot of man hours just to get you mobile, apart from the visual aspects there is very little good to be said for this aspect of mother nature, on the other hand there are dozens of different reasons why we would be better off without it, it is a gardener curse and if you’re out and about and not well protected your extremities can suffer badly.

You need to be particularly aware of frostbite if you spend any length of time outside in the cold weather, and it’s not good to be dehydrated, under the influence of alcohol or homeless without adequate heating and shelter combined with probably not getting enough to eat, it used to be said of the mentally ill that they haven’t got enough sense to come in out of the cold.

You don’t have to spend a longtime subjected to cold conditions, as little time as 15 or 20 minutes is sufficient, for it to damage your extremities enough to necessitate medical treatment and in extreme cases this includes amputation, some workers who have of necessity to spend long periods working outside in the cold, but still need their fingers exposed to get the dexterity to carry out their tasks will suffer from skin damage and much discomfort.

Keep your eye on the local weather forecasts will tell you when it's likely to happen and protect your extremities whenever you go out

Fortunately with modern communication systems these dangerous situations can be monitored easily and warnings issued by local government, civil defense, police, local radio and television.

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