Being cold all the time has negative effects on people's physical and mental health, for many different reasons that we'll explore below. It also often leads to extra wear and tear on their homes. Learning to recognise the signs can be a critical first step towards reducing the symptoms and getting to the root of the problem.
Let's start with the house, which is likely the cause of the cold.
Water droplets on mirrors and tiles after a shower, over the stove while cooking or along window sills on a cold morning – these are all signs that warm air has hit a cooler surface. Some condensation is normal during and immediately after activities that involve hot water. But if it persists or builds up on walls and ceilings, it usually shows the house is itself is doing a bad job of staying warm. Which drives up heating bills.
Inadequate insulation is like a house wearing a light T-shirt when a down jacket is better suited. Similarly, poor or old weather-stripping around doors and windows lets cold slip in while hot air seeps out.
The effects of chronic cold on the human body can range from subtle to severe. People tend to think of a few sniffles or the odd cough as a "normal" part of getting through another winter. Like water droplets in the window, the clue that fuel poverty might be in underlying cause is how often and for how long?
Recurring bouts of cold and cough, a prolonged flu (more than a few days) or more frequent and severe asthma attacks should be taken seriously. They may well be signs that in struggling to stay warm, a person's body has few resources left to fight off infections or keep chronic conditions under control.
They may also be evidence that a friend or family member is no longer able to purchase enough food to maintain a healthy diet.