Most people complain when the temperature starts to dip; the wind chill, the frost, shoveling snow, and treacherous driving (and drivers!) can bring out the crankiness in all of us but did you realize that dropping temperatures can have some serious consequences for the elderly and those dealing with chronic illnesses or diseases?
Most of us know what hypothermia is, when your body loses too much heat and your body temperature drops; but did you know that in an older person a body temperature of 95 or lower can cause serious health problems, including liver damage, problems with the kidneys, heart attack, or worse?
When you are preparing for a storm by stocking up on water, food, batteries, and ice melt, keep in mind that there are some other additional tactics that you should enlist to make sure you stay warm and healthy this winter!
KEEP WARM INSIDE!
Living in a cold home can cause hypothermia and people who are sick or elderly may have special problems keeping warm. Make sure to always dress warmly inside and never let it get too cold
Tips for keeping warm inside:
- Set you heat at 68 degrees or higher during winter months
- To save on heating bills and contain heat, close off rooms you aren’t using, close the vents and shut the doors, consider using a rolled towel to block any potential drafts from closed doors
- To keep warm at home, wear long johns under your clothes, be sure to wear socks and slippers, and/or put a blanket over your legs
- Be sure to wear long johns under your pajamas and to use extra covers when you sleep at night
- Ask a friend, family member, or neighbor to check on you during cold weather
STAY WARM OUTSDIE!
Did you know a strong wind can quickly lower your body temperature? Be sure to check the weather forecast for windy and cold days. On those days, try to stay inside or in a warm place and if you have to go out, be sure to wear warm clothes
Tips for bundling up:
- Always dress for the weather on chilly, cold, and damp days
- Wear loose layers of clothing, the air between the layers helps to keep you warm, similar to an animal and its fur
- Put on a hat and scarf, you lose more than half of your body heat when these areas are left exposed
- Wear a waterproof coat/jacket when its rainy or snowing
- Beware of the wind chill factor and work slowly if doing chores outdoors
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a person has hypothermia so you need to be sure look for clues. Watch for signs of hypothermia in yourself, too, you might be confused if your body temperature gets too low. Talk to your friends and family about the warning signs of hypothermia so you can all look out for each other.
Health problems can also make it difficult for the body to keep warm. Conditions such as diabetes, thyroid problems, Parkinson’s disease, and arthritis are common problems for older people that also make it harder to stay warm. Certain medicines can also make individuals susceptible to hypothermia. Be sure to discuss your medical history and all medications (prescription as well as over-the-counter) with your doctor and never stop taking any medications without first consulting with your physician.
WARNING SIGNS OF HYPOTHERMIA:
- Is the house very cold?
- Is the person not dressed for cold weather?
- Is the person speaking slower than normal?
- Is the person having difficulty maintaining his balance?
EARLY SIGNS OF HYPOTHERMIA:
- Cold feet and hands
- Puffy or swollen face
- Pale skin
- Slower than normal speech or slurred words
- Acting sleepy
- Being angry or confused
LATER SIGNS OF HYPOTHERMIA:
- Moving slowly, trouble walking, or being clumsy
- Stiff and jerky arm or leg movements
- Slow heartbeat
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Blacking out or losing consciousness
If you suspect someone has hypothermia, dial 911 right away!
After you call 911:
- Wrap the person in a warm blanket
- DO NOT rub the person’s arms or legs
- DO NOT try to warm the person in a bath
- DO NOT use a heating pad
TO REVIEW- WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT HYPOTHERMIA:
- Set your heat no lower than 68 degrees
- Dress warmly on cold days even if you are staying in the house
- Wear loose layers when you go outside on chilly days
- Wear a hat, gloves, and a scarf
- Don’t stay out in the wind and cold for too long
- Talk to you doctor about health problems you have or medications you are taking that could make it difficult to keep warm
- Find safe ways to stay active when it’s cold outside
- Ask a neighbor or a friend to check on you if you live alone
- If you think someone has hypothermia:
- Call 911 right away
- Cover him with a blanket
- DON’T rub his arms or legs