The Effects Of A Cold Home On Your Family’s Health

A warmer, drier home makes it harder for germs to spread. That’s the vital point when it comes to New Zealand’s predominantly cold and damp housing that results in a reported 1600 deaths every winter.

“The houses of the 48% of Kiwis who are shivering are extremely cold. Research published in 2010 by the Building Research Association (Branz) found that the average evening temperature of New Zealand living rooms during the winter was 17.8°C – below the World Health Organisation’s recommended minimum of 18°C. But some were a chilly 10°C.”

1600 deaths attributed to cold houses each winter in New Zealand’ – Ruth Nicol,

How does a cold home affect health?

The World Health Organisation recommends that our homes be at a minimum temperature of 18°C, or 20°C for homes with young children, elderly or ill people.

Cold, damp and mouldy homes pose the following risks:

  • Increased risk of respiratory infections (when indoor temperatures are under 16°C
  • Stress on the cardiovascular system (when indoor temperatures are under 12°C)
  • Increased risk of the onset of asthma
  • Asthma symptoms are likely to worsen
  • Dampness and mould are associated with respiratory tract infections and bronchitis

(For more, visit Environmental Heath Indicators New Zealand)

Creating a warmer, drier home

According to, the three essentials to create a healthy, energy efficient home are: keeping your home warm, ensuring your home is dry, and airing it out regularly.

If you are considering installing or upgrading your home’s insulation you may be eligible for an insulation grant. Check with your local council to find out what is on offer locally. Or free call EECA ENERGYWISE on 0800 358 676 or visit energywise. to find out about the Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes initiative.

Funding may also be available to you through the Warmer Kiwi Homes programme for some of the cost of an efficient wood burner, pellet burner or heat pump. Visit EECA ENERGYWISE for more information and to find out if you qualify.

her world julieWritten by Julie Scanlon

Julie is Editor for Kidspot NZ and our MVP. Her hobbies include laughing uncontrollably at her own jokes, annoying her family by asking questions about movie plots, and never taking anything too seriously. She speaks a little Spanish and a lot of Yorkshire. 

Favourite motto to live by: “It ain’t nothing but a thing”


  1. kymmage 27/06/2018 at 7:56 am

    I have definitely noticed that my asthma gets worse when the temperature is low. In May I refused to put the heater on, and we tried to get through the whole month with just jumpers and blankets. I was trying to keep costs down for the month. But towards the end of the month I noticed I was using my inhaler multiple times in the evenings when it was coldest.

  2. MuddledUpMolly 25/06/2018 at 9:30 pm

    Our house can sometimes be cold as it is quite big but it is not damp. I am an asthmatic and I am definitely negatively affected by living in a cold, older home. My last home in Australia was a brand new build, made of brick. I miss being warm all the time and not having asthma symptoms anymore!

  3. Mands1980 13/06/2018 at 1:05 pm

    I find it can be hard to keep the house at a warm temperature especially around 18 degrees. I didn’t realise so many people died over winter from the cold environment it’s a shame this is happening. I have a nephew who is In and out of hospital with bad asthma over the winter months it can be very stressful for the family.

  4. Shorrty4life1 11/06/2018 at 5:49 pm

    Wowee 1600 deaths each winter. That’s pretty sad really. I work at a resthome and find alot of people go downhill in winter with the change of temperature then it causes chest infections etc and their body’s are too old to fight back. It’s very sad.

  5. Bevik1971 08/06/2018 at 4:13 pm

    When I was a single Mum to my Son who is now 25, we lived in a small flat which ended up being cold and damp – the result was my son getting really sick at 9 months with Bronchialitis and asthma and was in hospital under isolation for days. He then got really sick every time he got a cold with wheezing, trips to ED and being on steroids and nebulizers etc. Not very enjoyable and all because of a cold/damp home. Very, very important to try and keep your home healthy which I know can be hard, especially if you are low income 🙁

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