Posts Tagged ‘Hypothermia’

Baby, it’s cold outside

Although the fall weather has been gloriously moderate, one can be certain that cold weather is on the way. It is important to remember that the cold temperatures of winter are especially dangerous for older adults. Seniors may not be able to feel that they are getting too cold, or they may set their thermostats low to save on heating costs.

A drop in body temperature is called hypothermia (hi-po-ther-mee-uh), and it can be deadly if not treated quickly. Hypothermia can happen anywhere, not just outside and not just in northern states. In fact, some older people can have a mild form of hypothermia if the temperature in their home is too cool.

When you think about being cold, you probably think of shivering. That is one way the body stays warm when it gets cold. But, shivering alone does not mean you have hypothermia.

So how do you know if someone has hypothermia? According to the National Institute on Aging, look for the umbles” – stumbles, mumbles, fumbles, and grumbles. These may be clues that the cold is a problem.

Check for:

  • Confusion or sleepiness
  • Slowed, slurred speech, or shallow breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Change in behavior or in the way a person looks
  • A lot of shivering or no shivering; stiffness in the arms or legs
  • Poor control over body movements or slow reactions

According to gericarefinder.com, during each cold weather month, many seniors die from hypothermia.

Wearing more clothes and proper cold-weather attire are necessary for aging adults. Indoors, many seniors may require an extra blanket or thicker socks.

To prevent hypothermia (very low body temperature), a dangerous and potentially life-threatening condition,  ), read these tips offered by the National Institute on Aging:

  • Ask your doctor if you have any health conditions or take any medications that make it hard for your body to stay warm. At increased risk are older people who take certain medications, drink alcohol, lack proper nutrition and have conditions such as arthritis, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Set your thermostat above 65 degrees; older people are at higher risk of becoming ill during the cold winter months.
  • Try to stay away from cold places. Changes in your body that come with aging can make it harder to feel when you are getting cold. It also may be harder for your body to warm itself.
  • Wear several layers of loose clothing indoors and out. The layers will trap warm air between them. Tight clothing can keep your blood from flowing freely, which can lead to loss of body heat. Hypothermia can occur in bed, so wear warm clothing to bed and use blankets.
  • Ask friends or neighbors to look in once or twice a day if you live alone. Your area may offer a telephone check-in or personal visit service.
  • Use alcohol moderately, if at all. Avoid alcohol altogether near bedtime.
  • Eat hot foods and drink hot liquids to raise your body temperature and keep warm.
  • Keep aware of the daily weather forecast and be sure to dress warmly enough, with hat and gloves, if you must go out. In extremely low temperatures with wind-chill factors, weather forecasters may suggest staying inside.
  • Make sure you eat enough food to keep up your weight. If you don’t eat well, you might have less fat under your skin, and fat can help protect you by keeping heat in your body. Also, drink 10 glasses of water or other non-alcoholic liquids daily.

And remember, spring will eventually come. Promise.

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