SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Try to stay warm, well and safe during the cold weather.
- Even moderately cold weather increases the risk of illness and death.
- Check on your older neighbours, friends and relatives during spells of colder weather, especially those living alone or with a health condition.
- Heat your home or the living spaces you use to at least 18 °C during waking hours.
- Keep windows and curtains closed overnight, and seal any draughts to help keep the heat in.
- To reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, make sure gas heating and cooking appliances are serviced by a registered gasfitter every 2 years (or immediately if there is any sign of trouble).
Health impacts of cold weather
In Australia, more deaths are related to moderate cold than to heat or extreme cold. There are also more deaths in the winter months of June to August than in the summer months of December to February.
During periods of cold weather, make sure you and the people you care for stay warm, well and safe. Check on older neighbours, friends and relatives, especially those living alone or with a health condition, to see how you can help. Make sure they have plenty of food, any medication they might need, and can get out and about.
To keep your home warm:
- If you are aged 65 years or over, or if you have low mobility or a health condition, heat your home to at least 18 °C. If you can’t heat all the rooms you use, heat the living spaces during the day and your bedroom just before you go to sleep. (Find out if you are eligible for any or call the Victorian Concessions Information Line on Tel. .)
- Babies need to sleep in a room at a temperature between 16 and 20 °C. For information on safe infant sleeping – read or visit .
- Close windows, curtains and blinds at night to keep heat in.
- Seal any gaps that let in draughts, especially around doors and windows, and insulate walls and ceilings where you can.
- Have your gas heater serviced and tested every 2 years by a licensed gas fitter to prevent carbon monoxide leakage. Refer to for models of open-flued gas heaters that should be checked by a qualified gas fitter immediately.
- If you are not on mains gas or electricity, make sure you have enough alternative fuel so you don’t run out during the cold months.
Look after your health
It’s important to look after your health during the colder months. Lower temperatures can increase your risk of:
So, over the winter:
- Get your from your GP – it’s free for:
- people over 65 years old
- all children aged from 6 months until they turn 5
- people with medical conditions that can make influenza severe
- pregnant women
- all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders over 6 months old
- even if you’re not in any of these categories, you can still pay to get a flu shot from your GP. are also able to give flu vaccines to people over 16 years of age.
- See your GP or call Tel. if you feel unwell, especially if you are older or have another medical condition.
- Layer your clothing both for indoors and out. Cotton, wool and fleecy fibres retain heat well.
- Wear well-fitting footwear with a good grip to prevent slips, especially when outside.
- When indoors, get up and move around at least every hour or so. Make yourself a hot drink. If walking is difficult, do some foot and arm exercises in your chair.
- If it is difficult for you to go out, make sure you have a supply of the medication you need.
- Fit some into your week – it’s good for you year-round and it’s great for keeping warm in winter.
- – have plenty of hot food and drinks and aim for 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables per day. Tinned and frozen vegetables count too.
- Keep up your social contacts – get out of the house when you can to see friends or shop.
Heating and safety
Heating your home can keep you warm and well, but is not without its risks. To make sure that you are heating your home safely this winter:
- Ensure you have working smoke detectors outside each sleeping area – test them monthly and change the batteries every year at the same time.
- If you use appliances that or solid fuel (such as and coal):
- every 2 years to ensure they are working properly or immediately if there is any sign of trouble. Use a licensed gasfitter endorsed for gas appliance servicing, who will test for carbon monoxide spillage. Find a registered or licensed gasfitter by searching online or via the .
- Make sure fireplaces, wood burning stoves, chimneys and flues are serviced regularly to prevent accidental fires.
- Don’t block flues or chimneys even if they are draughty as they allow carbon monoxide to escape.
- Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm that meets European (EN50291) or US (UL2034) standards in any room that contains a gas fuel burning appliance and test it regularly.
- Don’t use gas hotplates or ovens to heat homes – it is inefficient and there is a risk of .
- Never bring portable appliances designed for outdoor use inside your home or caravan. This includes portable heaters, patio heaters, BBQs or LPG-powered lights.
- Be aware that , including all gas and electrical appliances they provide. Contact Tel. ( or Tel. for more information.
- When using heaters:
- If you have central heating, set your timer (if you have one) to come on earlier and turn off later rather than turning up the thermostat.
- Use microwavable heat packs (adults) rather than hot water bottles to reduce the risk of scalds.
- If you use an electric blanket, use it only as instructed. Don’t leave it on for more than 30 minutes and have it tested every 3 years. Never use a hot water bottle with an electric blanket.
To make sure you are not paying more than you need to for your household heating:
- Check what . Low income earners who hold eligible concession cards may be eligible for a range of concessions and benefits, including:
- Gas – apply to your gas retailer for the Winter Energy Concession, it gives discounts on gas bills from May to October.
- Electricity – contact your electricity retailer for the Annual Electricity Concession, Service to Property Charge Concession and Electricity Transfer Fee Waiver (for those moving house).
- Non-mains fuel sources such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), firewood for domestic heating, cooking or hot water, heating oil, electricity accessed via an embedded network, generator fuel – if you are relying on a non-mains fuel source you may be eligible for the Non-Mains Energy Concession.
- Use the Victorian Government's free, independent energy price comparison tool, , to make sure you are getting the best energy deal available.
- Heat your home as efficiently as you can.
Make your home as energy efficient as you can
To improve the energy efficiency of your home heating:
- Close curtains at dusk to keep the heat in.
- Make sure heaters are not covered by furniture or curtains.
- If you have central heating, install a timer or programmable thermostat, and set it to come on just before you get up and switch off after you’ve gone to bed. If it’s very cold, rather than turning the thermostat up, set your heating to come on earlier and turn off later. For other types of heating, turn them off before going to bed and don’t leave them on for long periods if not needed.
- Draught proof your house. Seal gaps and cracks, including those around windows and doors, skirting boards and architraves and exhaust fans. However, do not use your gas appliances until they are tested by a licensed gas fitter for carbon monoxide spillage – inadequate ventilation may make your gas appliance installation unsafe.
- Zone your home – heat just the areas you use such as the living areas during the day and bedroom when getting ready to go to bed.
- Insulate your walls and ceilings – if your ceiling insulation has been there for a while it might not be performing as well as it could. Check what type of insulation you have and top it up if it is less than 50 mm thick.
- Maintain your heating system: keep vents and filters clean, make sure there are no leaks, and service the system as recommended by the manufacturer and have gas heaters serviced by a licensed or registered gasfitter every 2 years.
- Dress for the weather even indoors. Cotton, wool and fleecy fibres retain heat well.
- If you’re installing a new heating system or buying a new heater, choose energy efficient options if you can – select heating that is the right size for your home or the room you wish to heat.
Where to get help
- Tel. – for expert health information and advice (24 hours, 7 days)
- Friends, relatives and neighbours
- Your landlord or rental agent
- Tel. (free call)
- – to locate pharmacies that provide vaccination services
- – for tips on how to use your heating system efficiently
- Emergency department of your nearest hospital
- In an emergency, always call triple zero (000)
- , Victorian Government.
- , Energy Safe Victoria.
- , Sustainability Victoria.
- , Sustainability Victoria.
- Jevons R, Carmichael C, Crossley A, et al. 2016, , Public Health, vol. 136, pp. 4-12.
- Gasparrini A, Guo Y, Hashizume M, et al. 2015, , The Lancet, vol. 386, pp. 369–75.
- , Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.