NHS Devon warns people to be prepared as cold snap continues
Neil Price, Co-Editor
| December 8, 2010: With winter setting in early this year NHS Devon is urging people to take care of themselves, elderly relatives and neighbours to avoid serious illness.
Temperatures have already plummeted to nearly -10C in the county and NHS Devon is advising people to be prepared for more cold weather.
According to the Chief Medical Officer around 400 deaths could potentially be avoided in the winter months.
Dr Virginia Pearson, NHS Devon's director of public health, said it was important to try to keep warm during the winter.
“If it is not possible to keep the whole house warm, try to keep one main room and bedroom warm and stay there unless you have to go outside,” she said. “However, do try to stay active.”
“The best way to stay warm is to wear several small layers of clothing rather than a few thick heavy clothing items.
“There is a greater risk of hypothermia in temperatures below 10 degrees so it is vital to be aware of the temperature and to keep warm at all times.
“When it starts to get really cold, particularly if you live on your own and are over 65, try to arrange for someone to call to your house or telephone at least once a day.”
During winter, when demand on the NHS is highest, people are asked to choose well to make sure they get the right service for their needs.
Self-care - for minor illnesses, combine medicines for coughs, colds or flu with plenty of rest.
NHS Direct – can answer any health questions, 24 hours a day, and help to find services. Go to www.nhs.uk or call 0845 46 47.
Pharmacist/chemist - for advice on illnesses and the right medicines.
GP/family - for medical advice, examinations and prescriptions for illnesses you can't shake off.
For more information on keeping warm in Devon, go to http://www.devonpct.nhs.uk/Your_health/Winter_weather_advice.aspx
According to the Chief Medical Officer: (2009 annual report - http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/@ps/documents/digitalasset/dh_114012.pdf - from page 31)
A one degree drop in average winter temperature results in an additional 8,000 deaths in England. This is mainly through increased cardiac deaths, strokes and respiratory problems.
In a bad winter this could amount to an additional 50,000 deaths or more.
Colder countries, such as Finland, experience much smaller rises in deaths in winter so it is not inevitable. Staying warm both indoors and outside is essential for winter health.