Cold weather, snow and ice

A heavily snow covered road in a residential area with several snow covered cars.

Although many people enjoy the winter season, during periods of cold weather some people are at higher risk of illness if they become too cold, or can seriously hurt themselves if they slip and fall.

Severely cold weather can also cause disruption to road and rail transport. Car accidents also become more likely when road surfaces are icy and people are not used to driving in these conditions.

Who is most at risk?

Cold weather can affect anyone, but some people may face a higher risk being impacted by cold. Some of the groups who may be most at risk are:

  • Older adults.
  • People with long-term health conditions such as cardiovascular or respiratory disease, or a mental health condition.
  • Pregnant people.
  • Babies and young children.
  • People with learning disabilities.
  • People at risk of falls.
  • People who live alone and may be unable to care for themselves.
  • People who are housebound or have low mobility.
  • People experiencing homelessness or people sleeping rough.

Actions to take to prepare for cold weather or if cold weather is forecast

  • Read about the symptoms of hypothermia and understand the actions to take if you or someone else has them. Hypothermia is a medical emergency and needs to be treated in hospital. 
  • Have your heating and cooking appliances checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer to make sure they are working safely.
  • Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm that meets British or European Standards (BS Kitemark or EN 50291) to help protect you from exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide. The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from malfunctioning appliances increases during winter. 
  • Contact your water and power suppliers to see if you are eligible to be put on the Priority Services Register – a free support service that helps people in vulnerable situations.
  • If you have mould or damp at home, find out what is causing mould or damp and how to address it. 
  • Get vaccinated to help reduce risk from respiratory illnesses during the winter. Contact your pharmacist or GP or visit the NHS website for more information about seasonal vaccinations and winter health.
  • Plan ahead and check that you have enough medication and food in case it is harder than usual to leave the house. You could think about who might be able to help pick up food and medication on your behalf if you were unable to leave the house – let them know you might need them. 
  • Prepare your vehicle for driving in cold weather. The RAC provides advice on safe driving in the snow.  
  • Consider packing a few essential items in your car’s boot to make sure you are ready in case of getting stuck in cold and wintry weather.

The Energy Saving Trust has tips on things you can do, including advice on more efficient ways to heat your home and improving insulation.

Actions you can take during a spell of cold weather

 Actions you can take during a spell of cold weather 

  • Check the weather forecasts and warnings, or download the Met Office Weather Forecast app where you can create alerts for your area. Pay particular attention to any National Severe Weather Warnings or Cold Health Alerts covering your area, and act on any advice issued. 
  • Ensure that family, friends and neighbours who may be at higher risk of becoming unwell are aware of, and following, actions to keep themselves safe. If you are worried about someone else’s health, contact your local pharmacist, your GP or NHS 111, who will all be able to offer advice and support.
  • Support those who might need extra help by checking how they are feeling, and offering practical support (e.g., help obtaining food or medication) if possible.
  • Keep your home warm – try to heat rooms you spend the most time in, such as the living room or bedroom, to at least 18°C.
  • Keep your windows closed, particularly at night and reduce draughts wherever possible. 
  • Do what you can to stay active, indoors. 
  • Wear several layers of thin clothing rather than one thick layer. 
  • Wear shoes with good grip to avoid slips and falls on slippery or icy surfaces when out and about. 

Read advice on how to drive or cycle safely in cold weather.

The Met Office’s WeatherReady pages provide regularly updated seasonal advice.

Additional support

The government has published energy saving tips to help save money on bills. There are grants, benefits and sources of advice available to help you make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating or help manage energy bills

If you are finding it difficult financially to heat your home you can seek financial support. There are also support measures in place to help with the cost of living, especially for those on low incomes. For example, if you claim certain benefits or tax credits, you may be eligible for an extra payment from the government to help with the cost of living. Ofgem has information about help that could be available if you cannot afford your energy bills; as well as information for pre-payment meter users and those being moved to pre-payment meters without household permission due to debt; and information about getting a smart meter.

Further information and resources

Further advice on how to stay well during the winter, including seasonal vaccinations is available on the NHS website. 

For public health advice for cold weather in Wales, visit Public Health Wales. For advice in Scotland, visit Protect your home against snow and ice (