WHO says stay alert and help vulnerable as cold weather grips Europe

WHO says stay alert and help vulnerable as cold weather grips Europe
The adverse health effects of cold weather are by and large preventable

A wave of severe cold weather has hit Europe this week, and the World Health Organization has warned people to stay alert and help those most vulnerable to illness.

The intense cold weather poses health risks to individuals in vulnerable situations as temperatures are expected to plunge below average in western European Russia, central Europe, the Balkans and the Baltic region.

Who’s most at risk of cold-related illnesses?

Those most at risk of cold-related illnesses include elderly people, children, and people who have chronic diseases or physical or mental limitations.

People who take certain medications and those who are malnourished are also at a greater risk of getting a cold-related illness.

Poorer households are also among the hardest hit as they are not always able to adequately heat their homes. Homeless people, refugees and migrants can be especially vulnerable due to lack of proper clothing, shelter and medical care.

Stay alert

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, said: “Cold, even in places where the temperatures are not at their lowest, can be harmful to people’s health in many ways.

“It can aggravate existing conditions and raise the risk of increased blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Taking preventive action can help reduce the health impacts and risks.

“WHO is carefully following the situation in countries of the European Region. Affected countries should stay alert. Measures must be taken to protect people at risk.”

Preventing health consequences of the cold

The adverse health effects of cold weather are by and large preventable.

Dr Elizabet Paunovic, head of the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health, Bonn, Germany, said: “Governments need timely warnings and solid evidence to better protect people from adverse environmental conditions – and our experts in the Bonn Centre are key partners in ensuring this.

“Our team provides evidence-based solutions to global challenges affecting the environment, such as on climate change, air pollution, safe water and sanitation, industrial contamination and many others.”

Cold weather and health

According to the WHO:

• Deaths associated with cold weather are caused by coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular incidents, respiratory diseases, hypothermia and trauma;
• Illnesses associated with cold temperatures include: injuries from falls and accidents, hypothermia, cardiovascular problems, respiratory problems, mental health issues including depression, etc; and
• A global study conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has shown that moderate cold caused more deaths than moderate heat.

Subscribe to our newsletter


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here