With dire warnings that an estimated 2,500 people in England and Wales are likely to die from cold in the week leading up to Christmas, a British insulation expert is urging elderly people to fit a temperature alarm.
For as little as £15, a Cold alarm could help save the lives of older people who are most at risk.
Martin Clayton, business development and strategy director at GTi insulation and draught proofing specialists, says that a Cold alarm could be as necessary as a smoke detector.
He said: “They are very simple to install and have a ten year sealed battery unit. There is a traffic light set of signals to show the dwelling’s heat status.
“If the temperature is above 18C a green light will flash every ten seconds.
“If it falls to between 12 and 18C, it will flash amber which indicates that the occupant needs to increase heating.
“And if it falls between 7 and 12C, it will flash red indicating that action needs to be taken urgently. Below 7C it will also emit an audible beep indicating a serious risk of hypothermia.”
Each winter, a larger proportion of Britons die because of unseasonable cold weather than in either Finland or Russia.
An estimated 40,000 more people die between December and March in the UK than would be expected from death rates during other times of the year.
More than half the deaths are due to heart attacks, strokes and circulatory problems and a third from lung disease. When the temperature suddenly plummets, the danger is even more acute.
Martin added: “A high proportion of preventable illness and deaths in the UK is caused by people living in damp and cold housing.
“It is likely that as many as 50,000 people will die unnecessarily over this coming winter. This is a tragedy in terms of human life and also creates a huge – and preventable – strain on the NHS.
“All of us must be vigilant at the moment to look out for family, friends and neighbours who may be suffering. Often, fatal illnesses develop two or three days after a cold snap has finished.”
It is estimated that there are 8,000 extra deaths for every one degree Celsius the temperature is below the winter average.
There is a corresponding increase in the risk of asthma, emphysema, raised blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes, worsening arthritis and accidents.
Households are said to be ‘fuel poor’ if they have to spend 10% of their income on maintaining a satisfactory indoor temperature.
Across Britain, fuel poverty is thought to affect around 5 million house-holds, 80% of whose members are from vulnerable groups such as the elderly, very young and disabled. Fifty seven per cent of fuel poor householders are aged over 60.
Old properties, lack of insulation, absent or inefficient heating systems, the cost of heating, low income, and household size are all factors that contribute to fuel poverty.