How cold weather affects health

Severe cold weather spells are common across the WHO European Region. Extremely cold weather increases mortality and poses a high health risk to many, particularly vulnerable groups. Health and social services often face the challenge of caring for an increased number of patients suffering from various cold-related outcomes. Disruptions in services and infrastructure can further indirectly aggravate the health effects, but knowing the risks and the measures needed to prepare for and respond to cold weather can help prevent them.

People can be exposed to cold temperatures at home, at work, while commuting or during leisure activities. Typically, exposure occurs during cold weather (including cold-waves) or in cold water. Such exposure, whether indoors or outside, can cause a range of health effects, from light symptoms to serious or life-threatening health outcomes.