Cold weather can lead to an increase in chest infections such as flu and pneumonia as well as to hypothermia and other health problems.
If you live alone and feel ill, let someone know.
If you must attend hospital for a number of days, ask a nurse to ring a friend or relative to heat your home and get in some food before you are discharged.
Hypothermia happens when your body temperature drops below the normal range of 35˚C to 37˚C. Hypothermia is a serious condition and you need to get medical help as soon as possible. Here is what to look out for.
- Not feeling cold, even when the temperature is low
- Slurred speech
- Feeling unsteady when moving
- Pale and puffy face
- Feeling confused
- Cold skin in areas normally covered by clothing, for example, tummy or armpits
If you are at all concerned about hypothermia, then don’t hesitate to contact your GP.
What to do if you find someone who may have hypothermia
- Get medical help immediately. It can be a dangerous shock to the system if you try to warm them up yourself without medical supervision.
- If the person is outside, try to get them indoors. Cover them in blankets to slowly bring their temperature up. If they are wet, remove their wet clothing and dress them in dry clothes. If they are conscious and can swallow, give them warm (not hot), sweet, weak tea to drink.
- Do not give alcohol to drink and do not use hot water bottles or heaters to warm them. People with hypothermia are at risk of having a heart attack, so it is important to handle them carefully.
- If you cannot get the person indoors, cover the person’s head and neck and, if you can, place something underneath them to insulate them from the cold ground. Warm them slowly, using your own body heat if necessary.
The best time to get your flu injection is in September or October.
Protection lasts for a year, so you should get the flu injection every year. If you have a medical card, the injection is free from your GP. If you do not have a medical card, you may have to pay your GP. Remember, the flu injection does not give you the flu.
GP out-of-hours services
This is an urgent medical service that doctors and nurses provide outside normal surgery hours.
If you have a medical card or a GP visit card, the service is free.
If you don’t have a card, the doctor will charge a fee for the visit.
However, you don’t have to pay for medical advice that nurses or doctors give over the phone.
Call the HSE Information Line 1850 241 850 to find the opening hours and phone number for the GP out-of-hours service in your area.
If you depend on medical equipment at home such as kidney dialysis or oxygen machines, make sure to tell your electricity supplier. Your electricity supplier will put you on the Special Services Register*. This means that if there is a power cut, they will know about your situation and will try to restore your electricity as quickly as possible.
*Gas and electricity suppliers keep a list of their customers who are dependent on home electrical medical equipment or have other special requirements. This list is referred to as the Special Services Register.