ANYONE heading outdoors this winter will see people wrapped up warm in big coats, scarves and hats, blocking out the chill.

But not everyone can find that comfort from the cold.

As winter approaches, health campaigners are encouraging fellow Boltonians to look out and show some care for vulnerable residents.

A campaign has been launched to get people hot on recognising the signs of hypothermia this winter to stop old folks in their homes and rough sleepers on the streets from perishing.

Greater Manchester health campaigner Dr Zahid Chauhan believes a cold snap could prove fatal for hypothermia people.

The creator of the Homeless-Friendly programme wants neighbours to check regularly on the elderly to ensure they are keeping their homes heated at above 18 degrees Celsius.

And he is also urging the public not to shun rough sleepers, but instead search for signs of hypothermia and call 999 in the case of an emergency.

A potentially fatal condition caused when the body is losing heat faster than it can produce it, hypothermia’s tell-tale symptoms include slurred speech, pale skin, confusion, and in some cases, even unconsciousness.

If you encounter someone suffering outside, you should move them indoors, wrap them in blankets and give them a chocolate bar — advises Dr Chauhan.

Massaging cold limbs, hot baths and heating lamps could do more harm than good.

And the time-honoured image of the St Bernard rescue dog with a barrel of brandy around its neck is an old wives’ tale, as alcohol actually makes body temperature drop!

Dr Chauhan said: “A wintry spell is four times more likely to kill you than a heatwave and it is anticipated that around 117,000 people died because of the cold over a recent four-year period.

“A major drop in temperature can have a devastating effect on people with conditions such as asthma, poor circulation, decreased mobility and heart problems.

“We should be aware of that, try and take good care of ourselves and do our bit to look out for others including the homeless.

“Hypothermia and frostbite should be conditions confined to icy climates — not the North West of England.

“The fact that organisations such as Mountain Rescue and the Red Cross have been teaching homeless people how to recognise and deal with these issues, shows where we as a society are at. We must do more to ensure that the vulnerable are not left out in the cold — but instead feel the warmth of our compassion.”

Dr Chauhan has also delivered an icy blast about the problems caused by fuel poverty.

He said: “It is an absolute disgrace that pensioners are left so poor that they have to decide between eating and heating.

“Fuel poverty, as it is called, is a national disgrace as is the issue of homelessness. Once a predominantly big city problem, it has now reached places like Bolton, and I am reminded whenever we have sub-zero temperatures that there are people out there, sleeping on the streets.”

Homeless-Friendly encourages organisations to examine their policies and procedures and see if they really cater for those without a permanent address.

Bolton’s out-of-hours emergency healthcare service BARDOC was one of the first organisations to sign-up to the programme.

The pioneering project has also seen Waters Meeting Health Centre — home to the BARDOC-run out-of-hours service — open its doors to help the homeless.

People living on the streets will be given treatment at GP surgeries taking part in the project to improve access to healthcare.

Last year BARDOC started to hand out survival kits to rough sleepers containing blankets, bottled water and sleeping bags after one of its drivers noticed an increase of people sleeping on the streets.

BARDOC chief executive Vicky Riding said: “We will be distributing blankets and other essentials as part of our Vulnerable Patients scheme, as we conduct our out-of-hours work in Bury and Bolton.

“Winter can be a really difficult time for health, especially for those with life-long conditions and low immune systems, and looking after ourselves and our neighbours is essential.”

To learn more about Homeless-Friendly and how organisations can pledge to help homeless people visit

n Anyone worried about a relative or elderly neighbour is advised to contact the Age UK helpline on 0800 678 1174.