Gwent families are being urged to check on their elderly relatives this winter after a rise in the number of elderly patients being admitted to hospital with hypothermia.
Temperatures hit the lowest in a decade last weekwith parts of Gwent seeing temperatures plummeting as low as -4C and sub-double digits in more rural Wales.
The cost of living crisis it also continues to sweep the country, with many families having to choose between eating and warming up in the midst of the cold wave.
The Aneurian Bevan University Board of Health has said that admissions of elderly people with hypothermia were due to heating fears due to rising cost of energy bills.
A spokesman for the board of health said: “We are starting to see an increase in older people presenting with hypothermia.
“Unfortunately, this is due to the recent extremely cold temperatures and the cost of living crisis, with people fearful of the cost of turning on the heating.
“This difficult combination is now having a major impact on the health of some of the vulnerable seniors in our communities.
“We urge everyone to check on their elderly family, friends and neighbors this winter. Controlling them could prevent them from getting sick or even save their lives.”
The risk of hypothermia occurs when a person is exposed to very cold temperatures and when the body temperature falls below 35°C.
And although temperatures have risen this week, we are only just at the beginning of winter.
There are three stages of hypothermia, the first stage is shivering and reduced circulation, the second stage is a slow, weak pulse with slow breathing, incoordination, irritability, confusion, and sleepy behavior.
The final stage known as the advantage stage, symptoms include slow, weak, or absent breathing and pulse.
Age Cymru advises the elderly to put their personal health before anything else and ensure a room is warm enough and ask family members to help with errands.
Age Cymru health initiatives coordinator Angharad Phillips said: “It is extremely worrying that older people are being admitted to hospital with hypothermia due to heating costs.
“We understand that these are very difficult times, but we urge seniors to put their personal health above all else and ensure that at least one room in their home is warm enough to sit comfortably without developing illness.
“If people are concerned about paying their bills, they should seek advice to ensure they are claiming all their benefits and rights.
“For example, more than £200 million in pension claims go unclaimed in Wales each year.
“There are also various winter-related benefits available to some seniors, such as winter fuel pay, cold weather pay, the Warm Homes Discount Scheme and the Welsh Government’s Warm Homes Nest Scheme.
“We also recommend that people try to eat at least one hot meal a day and plenty of hot drinks.
“When it’s really cold, wear lots of thin cotton layers, even when you’re indoors, and try to keep moving by going for a walk or doing some physical chores around the house.”