Public urged to take precautions as cold weather hits

Shopping in the snow in Kettering
Shopping in the snow in Kettering

The East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) has issued advice to people with how best to cope with the cold snap.

It says colder temperatures, snow and ice often signals an increase in calls, and has urged members of the public to heed the advice offered by the emergency and health services and to use common sense.

Dr James Gray, EMAS’ Medical Director, said: “The cold has an adverse affect on many long-term conditions and strenuous activities such as shovelling snow in freezing temperatures can increase the risk of heart attack for those who are already vulnerable.

“Keeping warm is key to keeping well. It’s especially important that elderly people heat their home and have hot meals as they’re more vulnerable to the effects of the cold.”

During snow and icy conditions, people are also urged to drive responsibly, being sure to leave a good distance between you and the vehicle in front.

EMAS says people should prepare for a break down by ensuring mobile phones are fully charged, carrying their breakdown service details with you and packing blankets, a warm coat, snacks and a flask for a hot drink.

Other EMAS tips include:

· When off sledging, making sure you consider the location – somewhere with no obstructions such as trees, fences or rocks and avoid sledging near roads, pavements or water (frozen or not). Only sledge in the daylight.

· Taking care when shovelling snow – the cold air makes it harder to work and breathe and this can add extra strain on the body and can be the cause of heart attacks in the vulnerable.

· Managing your own minor illness by making sure you have collected your repeat prescription, in particular for inhalers or heart medication and make sure you take them with you if you go out.

· Having a well-stocked first-aid kit including treatments for colds and flu, or sickness and diarrhoea to stop you from getting dehydrated, plasters and antiseptic wipes for small wounds, and pain killers to treat head, tooth and muscle pains.

· Getting advice and treatment for sprains, grazes or minor injuries after a fall at a local walk-in centre. People suffering from a cold or flu can get treatment and advice from their local pharmacist.

Meanwhile, Age UK has published its recommendations for how the elderly should deal with the cold.

It said even in relatively mild winters, there were around 8,000 extra deaths for every one degree drop in average temperature.

Cold temperatures raise blood pressure, putting people at greater risk of heart attacks and strokes, as well as increasing the likelihood and severity of flu, chest infections and other respiratory problems.

Liam Condron, Chief Officer at Age UK Northamptonshire, said: “The cold is a huge health risk for older people leading to thousands of preventable deaths and illnesses every winter. It sounds obvious but keeping warm in winter is key to keeping well, and taking simple precautions now could literally mean the difference between life and death.

“It is absolutely essential that all older people, and those who care about them, understand the health risks posed by cold weather and how to avoid them. Anyone who needs help or advice in the coming days or weeks should call us on 0845 677 2220.”