The UK is bracing itself for a week of freezing weather and the prospect of February snow as Scandinavian winds sweep across the country, the Met Office has warned.

Public health officials have issued separate statements urging Britons to prepare for the ensuing freeze which will be a genuine threat to the elderly and the very young.

On Wednesday (8 February), a severe weather warning was in place across parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland and the west of England. The chief forecaster warned that untreated roads will freeze and become very slippery.

The weather agency has predicted that things will only get worse for drivers as the week progresses. Widespread frosts are expected across England and Scotland with snow along the east coast that has the potential to spread inland.

Deputy chief meteorologist Dan Harris said: "Snow showers are expected to increasingly affect eastern areas of England and Scotland towards the latter half of the week, which may also spread to some central and western areas by the weekend, although by this time a messy mixture of rain, sleet and snow is more likely."

Daytime temperatures will struggle to get beyond 5C and they will plunge beneath 0C during the night-time. Strong eastern winds will make conditions even chillier.

Dr Thomas Waite, from Public Health England's Extreme Events team, said: "With more cold weather on the way now is the time to really think how it could impact you and your family, particularly those who are very young, over 65 or who have heart and lung conditions.

"Try to keep homes heated to at least 18C, stock up on any essential medicine or food that you need before the cold arrives and remember that you will be warmer wearing several thin layers instead of fewer thick ones.

"Whenever temperatures drop more people become seriously ill, including pneumonia, heart attacks and strokes – that's why it's so important we all think what we can do for those at risk now."