With winter officially here in Indiana, cold temperatures and snow is on everyone's mind! Older adults can lose body heat much faster than when they were young. Being very cold can turn into hypothermia before an older person even knows what's happening. When an older person's body temperature falls below 95 degrees F, it can cause health problems like heart attack, kidney problem, liver damage, or worse. Here are some safety tips for inside and outside to prevent your chances of getting hypothermia.
Staying warm inside:
Set your heat to at least 68-70 degrees F.
Make sure your house isn't losing heat through windows. Keep the blinds and curtains closed if needed.
Wear long underwear under your clothes. Use a blanket. Wear socks and slippers.
Make sure you eat enough to keep up your weight. Your body needs some body fat to stay warm.
Avoid alcohol when the weather is cold, as this can make you lose body heat.
Have plenty of layers when sleeping. Wear a cap or hat if needed.
Bundling up outside:
Wear loose layers of clothing. The air between the layers helps keep you warm.
Body heat can easily escape if your head and neck are uncovered, so put on a hat and scarf.
Waterproof jackets or coats will keep the melted snow off, so be sure to wear one if its snowy.
Change your clothes right away if they get damp or wet.
What's the difference between just being cold and hypothermia? Some of the early signs of hypothermia are:
cold feet and hands
puffy or swollen face
shivering (Sometimes this is not a sign)
slower than normal speech or slurring words
being angry or confused
Later signs of hypothermia:
moving slowly, trouble walk, or being clumsy
stiff and jerky arm or leg movements
slow, shallow breathing
blacking out or losing consciousness
Call 911 right away if you think someone has warning signs of hypothermia. After calling 911, try to move the person to a warmer place and wrap them in a warm blanket or coat. Give the person something warm to drink but avoid alcohol or caffeine. Do not rub a person's legs or arms. Do not try to warm the person in a bath. Do not use a heating pad.
Remember that some illnesses make it harder for your body to stay warm. Thyroid problems and diabetes can make it difficult for the body to stay warm. Parkinson's disease and arthritis can make it difficult to put on more layers and clothing. Memory loss can cause a person to go outside without the right clothing. Certain medications can affect body heat. Ask your doctor about any health problems and/or medications that can make hypothermia a special problem.
Remember, it doesn't have to be freezing outside to get hypothermia. Follow these tips to stay as warm as possible this winter.
Source: National Institute on Aging: Cold Weather Safety for Older Adults | National Institute on Aging (nih.gov)