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Wrap up warm to avoid need for personal injury claim

Traditionally, the coldest day of the year is St Hilary's Day, January 13th, which could see an influx of personal injury claims associated with cold-related illnesses and injuries. However, with the onset of global warming there may not be so many compensation claims made this year.

Folklore dating back to 1086, 20 years after Duke William of Normandy defeated the Saxon army led by King Harold II in the Battle of Hastings, states that an immense frost spread over the whole of the UK on St Hilary's Day and was said to be the most severe Arctic spell ever experienced in Britain.

The weather forecast for January 13th this year is 12C, not that cold in the grand scheme of snow blizzards and great winter freezes, and barely cold enough to bother digging your woolly scarf, bobble hat and thermal gloves out for, really.

"Our winters are much milder than in other countries. It rarely gets below minus five. Most winter days, the temperature usually gets above freezing and when it's mild, it can be 13C", says Patrick Sachon from the Met Office.

However, even during mild winters, at least 20,000 people die in England and Wales as a result of cold weather every year. Figures show that there is actually a 2% increase in death rates for every degree below 19C.

It is thought that living in countries that reach particularly low temperatures does not necessarily mean that you will be more at risk. Even some of the coldest places in the world, such as Yakutsik in east Siberia, do not have an increase in mortality during the winter despite the fact that temperatures can drop as low as -49C.

In fact, living in a fairly mild country such as the UK can mean that you become extremely complacent about winter. On my way to work this morning I saw at least two people walking around without coats on and I even saw a man wandering around outside as bold as brass in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt last weekend.

This sort of behaviour leads to the onset of winter colds and bugs which circulate for weeks around each and every office, all as a result of someone forgetting to wrap up in, lets face it, conditions that are well past that of prancing around in summer attire.

In contrast, our cousins in the north of Finland take extra precautions against bitter weather by making sure that they keep their houses warm and they wear suitable outdoor clothing to keep the warm in and the cold out.

Common conditions
Heart attacks and strokes: Blood is more likely to clot and blood pressure more likely to rise in people who have been exposed to the cold, particularly conditions at less than 12 degrees. When cold, the body constricts the blood vessels to prevent blood flowing to the skin and heat being lost. This causes more blood to circulate to central parts of the body and overload the heart and lungs with blood. The body responds by excreting salt and water, making the blood more concentrated and likely to clot.

Respiratory diseases: At 16 degrees we develop less resistance to respiratory diseases such as asthma and bronchitis and respiratory infections such as flu. Flu epidemics, however, have greatly reduced over the last 30 years.

Hypothermia: This occurs when the core body temperature drops drastically and there is a big risk when the air temperature drops to 5 degrees and below. However, very few deaths are caused by hypothermia.

Arthritis: Cold, damp conditions can lead to arthritis and rheumatism.

Psychological personal injury: Keeping warm during the winter has been shown to decrease levels of depression and anxiety suffered. This may be related to Seasonal Affective Disorder which can be treated with light therapy, exposure to very bright light for up to four hours a day.

Who is most at risk?
Those most at risk of developing personal injury or illness during the colder months are the elderly. There are a number of reasons for this including the fact that many live on small pensions and do not have enough money to pay the fuel bills required to heat their homes adequately.

Many pensioners also rely on their free bus passes to get to the shops and back and spend much of their time standing around in the cold at unsheltered bus stops.

From a physiological viewpoint, older people have rougher linings in their blood vessels which make them far more susceptible to clotting and therefore more susceptible to suffering heart attacks, strokes and respiratory problems, such as flu.

"About two days after a cold period we see a rise in the number of deaths from heart attacks; about five days later we see an increase in death from strokes and about 12 days after we see an increase in respiratory deaths, " commented Dr Jo Nurse, a consultant in public health for the Department of Health.

Winter warmers
Patrick Sachon warns, "We could still get a cold snap. People need to realise that cold can kill and they need to keep warm". One way in which people can keep warm, avoid sustaining harm this winter and having to make a personal injury claim is to follow his advice:

Wrap up: always wear an overcoat and a hat to keep the heat in

Wear layers: several thin layers of cotton, wool or fleecy material trap the heat in

Keep active: get up and walk around as often as possible

Heat up daytime: keep your living room heated to 21C

Heat up night-time: keep your bedroom heated to 18C

Stock up: keep plenty of cold and flu remedies in the house

Eat well: eat warm hearty meals such as stews and soups and keep to a balanced diet so that you have enough strength to fight illness and personal injury

Drink regularly: keep fluid intake up to stay hydrated, warm drinks will also heat up the body

Quit smoking: within eight hours your blood oxygen levels increase to normal and your chances of suffering a heart attack begin to fall

If money is tight you could be able to get help to heat your home. The Warm Front Scheme is designed to help people that receive income or disability-related benefits pay for heating and insulation improvements in both privately owned and rented homes.

If you apply for the scheme an engineer prearranged by Warm Front will come to your home and complete a technical survey of the work needed for the existing heating system in your property. You could receive a grant for anywhere between 2,700 and 4,000, depending on your needs, the property you live in and the type of central heating system that you have and you won't have to pay anything, as long as the work doesn't cost more than the grant.

For more information about who is eligible for the Warm Front grant Scheme please visit http://www.direct.gov.uk.

Avoiding the need for personal injury claims
While avoiding being vulnerable to cold weather is the best advice we can offer, there are of course people in the UK every year who suffer the harshness of winter. If you sustain a serious personal injury, or a member of your family suffers fatality, as a direct result of exposure to cold weather conditions then you may be eligible to consult the assistance of a personal injury solicitor and make a no win no fee compensation claim.

This article may be published on another website free of charge, on the condition that a link is provided from this article to our website: http://www.the-claim-solicitors.co.uk