Preparing for severe weather

It's important to be prepared for cold or severe weather conditions during winter. This can help you and your family to stay safe and healthy.

Stay informed about weather changes - meteireann.ie

Protecting yourself from the cold

Keep yourself warm and heat your home to reduce the risk of health complications.

Colder temperatures can affect your body’s ability to fight off viruses and other infections.

The body is not as effective at fighting a virus when cold air enters the nose and upper airways. This means viruses such as the common cold, the flu and COVID-19 often spread more easily during winter.

Cold weather can also:

  • worsen underlying health conditions such as heart and lung disease
  • increase the risk of a heart attack, stroke, falls, injuries and hypothermia
  • be associated with an increased risk of mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety

Tips for keeping warm in winter

If you or others feel unwell

In winter, there are more hospital admissions and it gets busier in emergency departments (EDs).

Common illnesses like sore throats, colds, earaches and fevers can be managed at home without needing to go to a GP or ED for treatment.

Tips on how to treat common illnesses at home

If you are worried about your health during severe weather and feel you need treatment, contact your GP or an out-of-hours GP service for advice.

If you feel very unwell or have any unusual symptoms, you should attend your local ED.

Know your Eircode so that emergency services can easily find you in an emergency.

Find your Eircode - finder.eircode.ie

Children and cold weather

Children can pick up viral infections such as cold and flu more easily than adults.

Get urgent medical help if your child is very unwell

Hypothermia

Hypothermia happens when your body temperature drops below 35 degrees Celsius.

Older people are at higher risk of hypothermia.

Winter advice and supports for older people

Immediate action required: Call 112 or 999 if someone shows any signs of hypothermia:

  • shivering
  • pale
  • cold and dry skin - their lips and skin may be blue
  • slurred speech
  • slow breathing
  • tiredness or confusion

Power cuts

The risk of power cuts or blackouts increases in winter.

To prepare for a power cut:

  • have batteries for torches or other types of lights in the event of power cuts
  • keep a torch beside your bed and in your main room - check the batteries regularly
  • keep mobile phones charged up - have local emergency numbers in your phone

Keeping safe at home

Keep a supply of long-lasting food items that are easy to prepare, such as:

  • a carton of long-life UHT milk
  • a loaf of bread in the freezer
  • tinned foods

Have enough fuel for heating and cooking. If possible, have another option in case your main supply fails. For example, hot water in a flask to rehydrate dried foods.

Know how to turn off your water supply in the event of a big freeze or snowstorm. If your water supply is disrupted due to severe weather, read our advice on drinking water.

More advice to keep safe at home:

  • Try to have a water container available that you can fill with drinking water if needed.
  • Think about buying salt to put on the footpaths near your home - this helps to melt ice.
  • Have a suitable shovel for clearing snow.

Medicines

Keep extra supplies of essential medicine in case it is difficult to get to the doctor or pharmacy.

Store medicines at the recommended temperature (read the storage instructions on the packaging).

Store them in their original containers or packaging and keep them out of reach of children.

Medical appointments

If travel services or roads are disrupted due to bad weather, you may need to change planned visits to a hospital or other health centres for appointments. Even a planned operation may need to be changed.

If a severe disruption happens, some health services may change their opening times.

If you have a question about a planned appointment, phone the hospital or clinic to check on any changes to services.

Staying safe on the road

Get your vehicle serviced before winter sets in to make sure it is ready for bad weather.

Advice on vehicle maintenance and safety - rsa.ie

The RSA strongly recommends you carry a number of essentials in the boot of your car all year round.

These include:

  • a high visibility vest
  • a working torch
  • a hazard warning triangle
  • de-icing equipment (for glass and door locks)
  • a first aid kit
  • a blanket (to help keep you warm if your car breaks down in cold weather and you are waiting for help)

In case your car breaks down, bring waterproof footwear and a:

  • hat
  • warm coat
  • waterproof jacket

In severe weather, see if you can delay your trip until conditions improve.

If you absolutely need to travel, use public transport where available.

If you have to travel by car, check the weather forecast for the area you will be travelling in. Make sure the route is passable before starting your journey.

Driving in severe weather - rsa.ie

More support

Government advice on preparing for winter - winterready.ie

Page last reviewed: 2 January 2023
Next review due: 2 January 2026