Cold Weather & Seniors
Staying Safe During the Winter Months
Cold weather may bring many health hazards, but winter is especially dangerous for older adults. Seniors are at risk for developing a dangerous condition called “hypothermia,” which means is a lowering of the body temperature. With hypothermia, the body’s internal temperature cools to below 95 degrees. Often, this loss of heat is not felt on a person’s “skin” temperature.
Everyone’s health is endangered by lengthy exposure to cold weather, but seniors are at higher risk because their bodies do not respond well to cold. Older adults may have health conditions, diseases of veins and arteries or use medications that make them more susceptible to hypothermia. Alcohol use and a poor diet may also contribute to this risk and seniors also present a greater risk of falls, heart problems, frostbite and asthma-related issues during periods of cold weather.
- The best way to prevent hypothermia is to stay warm. Room temperatures below 70 degrees could lead to hypothermia.
- If room temperatures are cool, dress in layers of loose fitting clothes. Wool, down and quilted clothing is effective for staying warm.
- Keep clothes dry and change underwear or socks if they become damp or wet.
- Wear a windproof outer layer if you go outdoors.
- Wear a hat or cap if your body begins to cool. This will cause your body to send more warm blood to the hands and feet.
- Good nutrition is important. Food fuels your body to keep you warm. Hot, nourishing meals and warm drinks add heat to your body.
Symptoms of Hypothermia:
- Difficulty in speaking
- Puffy face
- Slow breathing
- Excessive sleeping or being hard to wake
- Cold, stiff muscles
- Cold stomach
- Trembling in one leg or arm
If you take medications for high blood pressure, nervousness, depression or take sleep aide and have trouble keeping warm, check with your doctor.
Use a Support Network
- Keep your eyes on the weather reports and know when cold weather is coming so you can plan ahead.
- Rely on friends, neighbors and relatives who are willing to check in on you when cold weather becomes severe.
- People in your support network should learn about your personal and medical needs in case of an emergency.