Who is more at risk of illness in winter?
You're at greater risk of illness in cold weather if you:
• are aged over 65
• are on a low income (and find heating difficult to afford)
• have a long-term health condition such as heart, lung or kidney disease
• have a disability
Keeping yourself warm
Find out below some simple ways to keep warm, stay healthy and make the best use of your heating.
Heat your home
Tips on how to stay 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 during 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 turning the thermostat up, so you won’t be cold while you wait for your home to heat up
Tips on how to stay warm at home during the night:
- keep the temperature above 18°C (65°F) in your bedroom
- if you use a fire or heater in your bedroom during winter, open the window or door a little at night for ventilation
- to prevent the risk of electrocution, avoid using an electric blanket with a hot water bottle
- to prevent the risk of scalds or burns, make sure you fill your hot water bottles with warm water - never use boiling water
If you have an electric blanket:
- check what type it is – some are designed to only warm the bed before you get in and should not to be used throughout the night
Make sure your heating is safe
It's important to make sure your heating is safe and your house or workplace is properly ventilated, to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Cold weather payments
You may be entitled to financial help during cold spells. Find out more about cold weather payments at the link below:
Wear warm clothes
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 or fleecy synthetic fibres (cotton is only effective if the garment stays dry)
- wearing bed socks and thermal underwear at night
If possible, stay indoors during a cold period if you have heart or respiratory problems.
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 like soup which is nutritious, keeps you warm and is inexpensive to make or buy.
Stay active and stay in touch
Staying active is good for your health. Walking, for example, can be good for you. If the weather prevents you getting outside, stay active indoors by catching up on all the household tasks you've been putting off.
Stay in contact with friends and family, especially if you've been stuck in the house for a few days. If you have elderly relatives or neighbours who might need help, please check up on them.
Who to contact if you need further help
If you're worried about a relative or an elderly neighbour, contact your local council. The charity Age NI has information about help and support for staying warm in winter.
- Cold weather payment
- Affordable Warmth grant scheme
- Winter Fuel Payment
- Winter advice - Age NI website
Look after your pets
Tips on how to take care of animals in cold weather:
- don't leave your dog or cat outdoors in freezing temperatures for long
- make sure they have 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 make sure they keep warm
- some dogs will need a properly fitted dog coat in cold weather
- take care when walking your dog in icy conditions, as a dog pulling on the lead can cause you to lose your balance
- don't leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather
Flooding and severe weather
Weather in Northern Ireland can be severe. Extreme shifts in weather patterns can lead to flooding in vulnerable areas and make some roads and motorways inaccessible.
The Met Office works with the Rivers Agency, Department for Infrastructure and NI Water to forecast areas where floods are likely. You should contact your local agency if there is flooding, or telephone the flooding incident line:
The Met Office's severe weather warning page provides up-to-date information about weather that is likely to cause disruption.
If you plan to travel during bad weather, you should visit the Met Office website for travel conditions. If you must drive during severe weather, make sure you're prepared for bad conditions.