Health chiefs across the Black Country and West Birmingham have issued important guidance following today’s cold weather alert.

The Met Office, in conjunction with Public Health England, has issued a level 2 cold weather alert as severe winter weather is forecast, with people advised to take extra care in the cold conditions.

A level 2 alert is issued when temperatures are expected to drop to 2 degrees for 48 hours or longer, and/or widespread ice and heavy snow is predicted. Across the Black Country and West Birmingham, forecasters have predicted areas of ‘dense freezing fog’ and widespread frost, with temperatures reaching below zero this evening. People are encouraged to take extra precautions to keep safe while the alerts are in place, such as checking on vulnerable friends and neighbours, keeping food and medications in stock and ensuring homes are adequately heated.

Dr Ian Sykes, local GP and Chair of Sandwell Local Commissioning Board, said: “Taking extra care during cold weather is really important, particularly for people who are more vulnerable to suffering ill health due to the cold, such as babies and very young children, older people, pregnant women and people with pre-existing medical conditions.

“Most of our advice on keeping warm in cold weather may seem like common sense, but it’s vital to remind people how cold can affect them. It’s also important to maintain regular contact with vulnerable people you know might be at risk in cold weather, especially those who live alone, and ensure they have access to warm food and drinks, and are managing to heat their home to at least 18 Celsius.

“If you can’t heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room during the day and your bedroom just before you go to bed. Wearing a few layers of thin clothing is better at trapping heat than one thick layer and will help to keep you warm.

“Make sure you also take the current weather alert into account when planning any activity over the following few days and try to avoid exposing yourself to cold or icy outdoor conditions, especially if you are at a higher risk of cold-related illness or falls.

“As the temperature continues to drop over the next few months, everyone should prepare for winter illnesses such as flu, especially those who are at a higher risk.

“Flu is a highly contagious viral infection that anyone can catch and is most common over the winter period. It can be very serious for some and even life-threatening. It can spread easily from one person to another, even if you don’t have any symptoms.

“One of the most effective ways to reduce potential harm from the seasonal flu virus and protect immune system is through getting the flu jab. The best time to have the flu vaccine is in the autumn or early winter before flu starts spreading, so I would encourage anyone who has received an invite from the NHS to get their appointment booked as soon as possible.”

Those eligible for a flub jab include people aged over 50, pregnant women, frontline health care staff and school age children, are all being offered the free vaccine in the run up to and throughout winter. People in long-stay residential care homes and carers are also eligible, as well as close contacts of anyone who is immunocompromised.

Councillor Nicolas Barlow, cabinet member for health and adult social care at Dudley Council, said: “With cold weather forecast, we are asking residents to keep warm and check in on vulnerable friends and neighbours over the coming days and weeks.

“Our Winter Wellbeing scheme offers lots of practical help, support, information and advice to keep older and vulnerable people protected over the cold winter months with information available at www.dudley.gov.uk/winterwellbeing.

“We know rising energy costs are a worry for many households and I would encourage anyone concerned to contact the Dudley Energy Advice Line on 01384 817086."

Click here for more information on how to cope in cold weather.