Taking care in winter
Northern Ireland can experience very cold spells during the winter. It is important that people are protected against a drop in the temperature.
Staying warm in winter
Keeping warm over winter months can help prevent colds, flu or more serious health problems like pneumonia. Find out some simple things you can do to keep warm and stay healthy and make the best use of your heating at home.
Heating your home
To keep warm at home during the day:
- heat your main living room to around 18-21ºC (64-70ºF) and the rest of the house to at least 16ºC (61ºF)
- heat all the rooms you use in the day
- if you can’t heat all your rooms, make sure you keep your living room warm throughout the day and heat your bedroom before going to bed
- set the timer on your heating to come on before you get up and switch off when you go to bed
- in very cold weather set the heating to come on earlier, rather than turn the thermostat up, so you won’t be cold while you wait for your home to heat up
To keep warm at home during the night you should:
- try to keep a temperature of above 18°C (65°F) in your bedroom overnight
- if you use a fire or heater in your bedroom during winter, open the window or door a little at night for ventilation
- never use an electric blanket or a hot water bottle together as you could electrocute yourself
- if you have an electric blanket, check what type it is – some are designed only to warm the bed before you get in and should not to be used throughout the night
- make sure your electric blanket is safe to use by getting it tested every three years - the Fire Brigade, Trading Standards and Age Concern can test your electric blanket for safety
A balanced diet will help keep you warm and healthy in the winter. Make sure you and your family eat at least one hot meal a day (soup is nutritious and warming, and inexpensive to make or buy).
Stay active and stay in touch
Staying active is good for your health, walking for example can be beneficial. If the weather prevents you getting outside, stay active indoors - catch up on all the household tasks you've been putting off.
Talk - especially if you've been stuck in the house for a few days - lift the phone and call friends and family. If you have elderly relatives or neighbours who might need help, please check up on them.
Cold weather payments
You may be entitled to financial help during cold spells. Visit our page on cold weather payment to find out more.
Make sure your heating is safe
It is important to make sure your heating is safe and that your house or workplace is properly ventilated, to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Wear something warm
You can help keep warm by:
- wearing plenty of thin layers, rather than one thick one
- putting on a coat, hat, scarf, gloves and warm shoes or boots when you go outside
- wearing clothes made of wool, cotton, or fleecy synthetic fibres
- wearing bed socks and thermal underwear at night
Who to contact if you need further help
If you are worried about a relative or an elderly neighbour, contact your local council. There is also help and support from the charity age NI. Its website has information on how to stay warm in winter which contains useful contact numbers and advice.
- Cold Weather Payment information (money, tax and benefits section)
- Warm Homes grant scheme (environment and greener living section)
- Winter Fuel Payment information (pensions and retirement planning)
- Winter wrapped up - age NI website
- age NI
Flooding and severe weather
Our weather can be severe and it can change rapidly. Extreme shifts in weather patterns can lead to flooding in vulnerable areas and make some roads and motorways inaccessible.
0300 2000 100 - flooding incident line
The Met Office works with the Rivers Agency, Roads Service and NI Water to forecast areas where floods are likely. You should contact your local agency in the event of flooding or ring the new flooding incident line on: 0300 2000 100.
You can find out more about who to contact for help that may be available for dealing with the effects of flooding.
The Met Office's severe weather warning page provides up-to-date information about weather that is likely to cause disruption.
If you are considering embarking on a journey during bad weather, you should consult the Met Office for travel conditions. If you must drive during severe weather, make sure you are prepared for bad weather conditions.
Look after your pets
Taking care of animals may become more challenging in cold weather:
- don't leave your dog or cat outdoors in freezing temperatures for long. Make sure he or she has a warm place to sleep, away from draughts
- after a walk in snowy, icy or wet conditions, dry your pet off as quickly as possible and ensure it is kept warm. Some dogs will need a properly fitting dog coat in cold weather
- take care of yourself when walking your dog in icy conditions, as a dog pulling on the lead can cause you to lose your balance
Never leave your cat or dog alone in a car during cold weather.