Health chiefs are urging people to protect their lungs after the Met Office and UK Health Security Agency issued a “cold health alert” covering until the end of the week.
The NHS said: “Protect Your Lungs – a respiratory campaign – has been relaunched in the south east to coincide with cold health alerts issued by UKHSA and the Met Office.
“An amber alert is now in place for the whole of England until midday Friday 19 January which means that cold weather impacts are likely to be felt across the whole health service for an extended period.
“Cold weather can particularly impact older people with pre-existing medical conditions as well as increase the risk of chest infections and other respiratory conditions.
“Protect Your Lungs This Winter features a number of interviews with patients living with respiratory issues such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“Talking to camera, they describe the practical approaches and preventative measures they will be taking during the colder days to reduce the risk of serious illness in the hope of helping others.
“Top tips to protect your lungs this winter
- Avoid crowded places
- Avoid anyone unwell
- Avoid enclosed spaces
“The significance of the campaign, which also features clips from NHS clinicians, is important as colder weather increases the likelihood catching winter viruses including flu, covid-19 and other respiratory viruses.”
NHS England south east medical director Vaughan Lewis said: “With cold health alerts now in place for this week, we expect this to increase the number of people needing healthcare.
“Low temperatures can exacerbate pre-existing conditions and in particular respiratory illnesses – as well as lead to an increase in serious conditions such as heart attacks and strokes.
“There is also the risk of people falling and injuring themselves if conditions become icy.”
He said: “It is vital to check on friends, family and neighbours to ensure they are well prepared for the colder days ahead and that they use the NHS appropriately by accessing the right services.”
The NHS said: “There are a number of ways people can continue to support the NHS
- Use 999 in life-threatening emergencies.
- If you are unsure of the service, you need to use 111 online or by phone.
- If your loved one is in hospital and well enough to leave, help support them to get home at the earliest opportunity.
- Make sure you have enough regular medication and don’t leave repeat prescription requests until you have run out. Your own GP can help arrange an urgent medication supply if you do run out.
- Make use of your local pharmacy. Pharmacists are open over weekends and can give you expert, confidential advice and over-the-counter remedies for minor illnesses and ailments. You don’t need to make an appointment to see a pharmacist
- Call your own GP when surgeries are open – even if you’re on holiday. Many offer appointments via telephone and video so you don’t need to be there in person.
“Here are some of the ways in which you can keep yourself and others safe during periods of cold weather
- Check the weather forecast and the news
- Make sure you have sufficient food and medicine
- Take simple measures to reduce draughts at home
- Keep bedroom windows closed
- Wear multiple layers of thinner clothing
- If you’re eligible, get vaccinated against flu and covid-19