Hypothermia and Seniors: Tips for Staying Safe in Cold Weather
Written by Admin | January 27, 2016 | In The News
The National Institute on Aging issued information this week about the risks cold weather presents to seniors. The body’s response to cold can be affected by age, medical condition, or prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs, making seniors especially vulnerable to hypothermia.
According to the NIA, when the temperature gets too cold or the body’s heat production decreases, hypothermia occurs. Hypothermia is defined as having a core body temperature below 95 degrees. Signs of hypothermia include slowed or slurred speech, sleepiness or confusion, shivering or stiffness in the arms and legs, poor control over body movements or slow reactions, or a weak pulse. If hypothermia is suspected, call 911.
According to Mayo Clinic, a number of medical conditions may increase the risk of hypothermia. These include Parkinson’s disease, stroke, hypothyroidism, diabetes, severe arthritis and disorders that affect sensation in your extremities. Poor nutrition and dehydration also may have an effect.
Tips from NIA to avoid hypothermia are:
When going outdoors, wear a hat, scarf and mittens to prevent the loss of body heat through your head and hands. Wear several layers of loose clothing to help trap warm air between layers. Wool, silk or polypropylene layers hold body heat better than cotton, according to Mayo. Be sure to let someone know when going outdoors, and carry a fully charged cellphone.
Ask the pharmacist or your doctor if any of your medications or over-the-counter drugs may increase the risk for hypothermia. Various antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedatives and narcotic pain medications may reduce the body’s ability to regulate its temperature.
At home, maintain a warm temperature, recommended at 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit by the National Institutes of Health. Dress warmly, too. Long underwear, socks and shoes or slippers help, as will a sweater or small blanket to cover your legs while seated. Even a small cap or hat worn indoors can help.
If dressing warmly with multiple layers in the morning is a challenge, or getting yourself to the grocery store and the pharmacist is a challenge when roads are snowy or icy, Independent Living has services that can help in these and other ways. Call 274-7900 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org to make your life easier. If nursing care or physical therapy is desired, contact Independent Health Care at 274-2097.