As freezing temperatures continue across much of the UK, people working from home have been advised to ensure their homes are heated to at least 18C to avoid the risk of heart attacks, strokes and chest infections.
Health testing expert Dr Quinton Fivelman, chief scientific officer at the London Medical Laboratory, said it was especially important that older people and those with pre-existing health conditions keep warm.
He cited Oxford University research that found 18-21C is the ideal temperature range for a living room, or a room where people spend most of their time, to avoid a host of health complications including strokes, heart attacks and respiratory infections.
Health in cold temperatures
However, as energy costs soar, many home workers will be keeping the thermostat down to save money, or because they simply cannot afford to heat their homes. A YouGov survey in December found that 15% of households had not turned their heating on at all, and 61% said that while their heating was on, it was not on for as long as they would like, not as hot as they would like, or both.
Dr Fivelman said: “If our homes drop to 16C or lower we are putting ourselves at risk of major health problems, particularly for those people with pre-existing health conditions or over the age of 65.
“In 2008, researchers from Sheffield Hallam University found 10,000 deaths in the UK might be prevented if indoor temperatures were raised to 21C during the winter months. They found that for each one degree increase in indoor temperature between 14.8C and 19C the ratio of deaths fell by 2.9%.”
He said it was also important for employees to establish how healthy they are during cold spells.
Temperature-related health risks
24C+ – Cardiovascular risk of strokes and heart attacks
21-24C – Increasing discomfort
18-21C – Comfortable temperatures
16-18C – Discomfort, small health risks
12-16C – Risk of respiratory diseases
9-12C – Risk of strokes, heart attacks
<9°C – Risk of hypothermia
Earlier this week the UK Health Security Agency issued a cold weather alert for England, which was extended through to 23 January.
Dr Agostinho Sousa, head of extreme events and health protection at UKHSA, said: “Cold weather can have a serious impact on health, particularly older people and those with pre-existing health conditions, as it increases the risks of heart attacks, strokes and chest infections.
“During this period, it is important to check in on family, friends and relatives who may be more vulnerable to the cold weather. If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over the age of 65, it is important to try and heat your home to at least 18°C if you can.”