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How to keep warm this winter

21st December 2016

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

If you do have reduced mobility, or for anyone over 65, it is vitally important to maintain a warm home. 

 

NHS guidelines suggest that your bedroom should be heated to at least a constant 18C and your living room at 21C - this will not just help you to be comfortable during the winter months, but also healthy.

Check your heating

Your boiler is one of the most important parts of your home, as it powers your heating and hot water.

British Gas recommend that you service your heating annually, as this prevents any risk of gas leaks, while ensuring that your boiler is working safely and effectively. 

 

It can also save you an awful lot of money; an old boiler that isn’t working properly can be losing you a significant amount of money, as you compensate for its lack of heat.

A new boiler can provide more efficient hot water accessibility, as well as taking up a lot less space than older ones.

If in doubt, always get a fully qualified engineer to carry out a quality service.

It is also advised to use timers on your heating, for instance setting it so it comes on before you wake up.

No one likes to wake up to a cold home - it makes you reluctant to leave the bed, which is really bad for your mental health. But you can schedule your boiler to heat up your home before you wake up, and similarly when it gets dark.

This means that you aren’t paying out a fortune by leaving it on all day, but kicks in when you need it most.

Accessories:

Electric blanket

An electric blanket is a great accessory to have around the house and acts as a perfect gift for an elderly loved one.

You can get many designs, styles, fabrics and sizes which allows you to cater to all tastes and ages. If you are looking to get one for yourself or someone to keep them warm, it may be worth getting a size above what you are thinking, so they can be fully wrapped up in the blanket.

This does not need to apply to ones that you may place over your mattress at night.

Make sure that you keep your blanket away from any other pieces of furniture and especially your curtains, unless you have it wrapped around you.

It is important that you unplug and turn off your blanket when you have finished using it, particularly at night, unless it has a thermostat control setting for safe use.

Electric blankets can be a fire risk if not properly maintained. If you have had one for a while, you should look to have it serviced at least every three years for health and safety.  

Thermal socks

Thermal socks are a great way to keep your feet toasty and warm during the winter.

But there can be such a wide choice and variety that it is hard to find the best socks for your feet, so after some research we contacted Shane Doughty, Buying Director at Heat Holders, ‘The warmest thermal sock in the world.’

“Introduced to the UK Market in 2008 as “The Ultimate Thermal Sock” Heat Holders have since proven a worldwide global success. Heat Holders use a unique three stage warmth process including a patented long loop terry knit. The Heat Holders range now includes joint warmers, hats, gloves, underwear, blankets and more.”

Hot Boots

If socks aren’t enough to keep your feet warm at winter, or if you want to get a loved one a gift, then why not try these Hot Boots from Firebox?

Their super soft fabric is extremely comfortable and makes your feet nice and warm.

But these aren’t just any conventional slippers. Pop these Hot Boots into your microwave for just a few minutes and the lavender-scented wheat grains warm up for up to an hour, as well as giving off the relaxing smell of lavender.

All of the boots include non-slip soles, and a fleecy inner lining. 

A fire

A fire is a great way to keep yourself warm during the colder months, but they do involve a lot of maintenance and care.

It is important to have a fireguard if you have one in your living room or even a bedroom. They don’t just help keep your floor or carpet cleaner but will also reduce the chance of hot embers jumping out. 

 

Make sure smoke alarms are working, and install an audible carbon monoxide alarm in each room. This advice also goes for any Rayburns or AGA ovens that you may use for your heating. 

Of course, you need to have wood or a similar burner to get the fire going and these can be heavy and hard to move around. You should ask any neighbours, friends or family members if they are able to help you set up your fire simply by bringing in any wood or coal to the side of your fire that you can easily place or scoop in.

If you do use an open fire, ensure that you have your chimney swept before the cold weather sets in and check that any fire is out properly before you leave the room.

Eat well

It may seem too simple to be true, but by simply eating well you can keep yourself warmer and ultimately healthier. Winter and Christmas is a time to over indulge, so why stop now?

Food is a vital source of energy, so ensure that you have regular hot meals and hot drinks several times a day.

 

 

Maintaining a good and varied diet will help you keep healthy. Packed full of nutrients and vitamins, fruit and veg will help keep any illnesses at bay.

Keep your cupboards and freezer stocked up with a variety of fresh foods and healthy, warming tinned food like soup and fish. If you can’t get out and get your own shopping, you can ask a family member or friend to bring you what you need. Or what may be easier, you can go online and get your shopping from the likes of Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s.

If it is particularly cold, you can drink a hot drink just before bed.

Be as active as possible

We understand that this is a challenge for someone with limited mobility, but even if you have a stair lift at home it only needs to be as gentle as sitting or standing exercises.

Staying active, or at least being on the move, keeps your spirits up whilst warming you up significantly and offering long term health benefits. 

 

If you are in a chair, there are plenty of exercises that you can do to keep you active. Whether you are simply lifting very light weights or objects up over your head in repetition, or trying to extend yourself up to the ceiling.

Otherwise, you can do plenty of light aerobic activities to help raise your heart rate while burning some calories. Rapid repetitive movements also help to loosen up any stiff joints that you may have.

In-chair exercises can vary from simple air punches, to getting a Nintendo Wii and using the console as a form of exercise through a range of its games.

Check weather forecasts

You should keep up-to-date with the current weather forecasts, as well as looking ahead, which will allow you to prepare for any serious changes in the weather that could cause a problem.

The Met Office issues cold weather alerts when the mean temperature drops to 2C for 48 hours or longer and when there is a heavy fall of snow or widespread ice.

Having the knowledge of knowing when the weather is likely to get colder allows you to prepare; if you see that heavy snow or ice is forecast it means that you can ask a family member or friend to come and drop round some extra food or essentials like wood to last you through the intense weather.

Similarly, you can also prepare your heaters, which will save you money.   

Wrap up warm

If you are venturing outside, you should always wrap up warm.

For some, this means piling on multiple pairs of socks, several jumpers, two pairs of trousers and more. But really, it doesn’t need to be as extreme to ensure that you are warm outside.

Approach the outside with a three layer principle; an inner layer, a middle layer and an outer layer.

For your inner layer, try your best to avoid anything cotton based, as it will actually cool down your body. Choose long underwear made from some synthetic material, as this will allow for moisture to be moved away from the skin. 

 

Your middle layer should be made up of wool, because it is a great fabric for insulation; try some woollen thermals or woollen padded trousers.

Wearing several thin layers actually helps you to regulate your temperature, as it traps air between them which is warmed by your body heat and creates a further insulating layer between you and the cold.

Over your thermals, wear a shirt and a t-shirt before adding a pullover or jumper but make sure that you move up in sizes to allow for comfort.

The outer layer, or the ‘shell’ layer should fit comfortably over the inner and middle layer, which may feel like it is stacking up. So put on a large, thick jacket with a hood. Again, consider wool as a good form of insulation.

 

 

Of course you then add mittens or gloves - you can buy thin liner gloves which can go on underneath. 20% of your body heat is lost through your head, so make sure you have a large, woollen hat to wear.

Wearing big, thick-soled socks over a thinner pair is advised, but ensure that there is a small gap for the air around your feet. As your foot moves around in your shoe, the air warms up and like with your middle layer, it will help insulate your feet.  

Helpful tips:

There are a number of little things you can do to further ensure the warmth of your home:

  • Keep your curtains closed, especially during the night. When it is sunny, open them up to help the sun warm up your home, but when it gets dark close them to trap in the heat
  • You can fit draught proofing around any gaps and cracks in your windows and doors
  • Clear anything obstructing your heaters or radiators
  • Close the doors to any unused rooms, which will prevent cold air filtering out into the rest of your home. Similarly, if you have the heating on in selected rooms then close the door when you leave them
  • Get someone to move around your furniture; though you may feel nice and warm with your favourite chair or sofa sat in front of the radiator, you are actually blocking the heat from coming out. Instead, move your furniture and allow the heaters to warm up the room
  • Ensure that you take up the chance to have a flu jab – this is vitally important

For anyone in search for further, detailed advice on keeping warm this winter then check out Age UK Mobility’s in-depth preparing for winter guide.