Did you know that older adults can lose body heat faster than when they were young? Also, because of changes to your body as you age, it gets harder for you to even know you’re getting cold. That’s why cold weather…or a cold house…is so dangerous for seniors.
Hypothermia is a medical emergency that happens when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. For seniors, the danger level is when your body heat gets below 95°. This can cause a heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage, or worse.
It’s the cold weather season here in the Mohawk Valley so we thought this would be a good time to offer some safety tips for seniors. We consulted the National Institutes on Health for advice.
How to Fight the Cold Inside Your Home or Apartment
We realize heating costs have skyrocketed this year, but safety needs to come first. That’s why the recommendation is to keep your home thermostat between 68-70°F.
To save on your heating bills, be vigilant about closing off rooms you don’t use, close the basement door, and keep a rolled towel underneath all doors to keep out cold air.
You can also keep blinds and curtains closed (unless the sun is shining through, which can help heat the room). And weather-strip gaps in the windows.
When it comes to your daily life at home, alway dress warmly when it’s cold out. Keep a blanket handy on the couch to cover your legs. Go ahead and wear socks or slippers. At night wear long underwear and your pajamas in bed. Use extra covers and wear a cap or hat.
Try to keep your weight up by eating well. Body fat helps you stay warm. If you’re going to drink alcohol, drink moderately. Alcoholic drinks make your body lose heat. Finally, ask family and/or friends to check on you during cold weather.
How to Fight the Cold Outdoors
The thing to be careful of in addition to the cold is the wind. A heavy wind can lower your body temperature fast. The obvious advice is to dress warmly when going out.
But did you know that the air between loose layers of clothes keeps you warm? So wear loose layers and put on a hat and scarf. Body heat flows out of you when your head and neck are uncovered.
It’s also good to wear a waterproof jacket when it’s snowing. And change your clothes when you get home if they get damp or wet.
Warning Signs of Hypothermia
How do you know you may have hypothermia? There are signs and it’s important to know them so you can get medical help right away.
Early Signs of Hypothermia
- Cold feet and hands
- Puffy or swollen face
- Pale skin
- Shivering, although in some cases you can have hypothermia and not shiver.
- 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
Call 911 right away if you think someone has warning signs of hypothermia. After calling, do this:
- Do your best to move the person to a warmer place.
- Wrap the person in a warm blanket, towels, or coats…whatever you have. Even your own body warmth will help. Lie close and be gentle.
- Give the person something warm to drink. Do not give them alcohol or caffeine, i.e. regular coffee.
- DO NOT rub the person’s legs or arms.
- DO NOT try to warm the person in a bath.
- DO NOT use a heating pad.
As beautiful as our Utica area winters can be, they can also be hazardous. And people this year are doing everything they can to save on their heating bills.
We understand that you may be doing the best you can to save money. And we aren’t suggesting you cut back on your outdoor exercise or winter fun. But we do recommend that you dress properly and know the signs of trouble in case the cold weather gets the best of you.
Stay safe out there Mohawk Valley!!
Until next time,
Your SZW Team
SZW Insurance is your Utica area Trusted Choice™ independent insurance agent. Call us for a quote on insurance for your home, car, business, or life at 315.792.0000. Or request a quote here.