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 Bundliní Up

The cold weather that has gripped our nation over the past few weeks has left almost no community unaffected. We need to be attentive to the problems of cold weather, no matter where we live.

I am thankful to our friends at the American Geriatrics Society for the following information that all caregivers need to heed for their loved ones and for themselves.

When the temperature drops, older adults run a high risk of health problems related to the cold including hypothermia (dangerously low body temperature), frostbite, falls on ice and snow, and injuries. So it's important that they, and those who care for them, take certain precautions this time of year.

Because older adults have slower metabolisms, they tend to produce less body heat than younger people. Thanks to the way our bodies change as we age, it's also harder for older adults to tell when the temperature is too low. This can be dangerous because your body, when outside in the cold for too long, begins to lose heat very quickly. The result can be hypothermia, a deadly drop in body temperature. Here's what you should do:

  • Stay indoors when it's very cold outside, especially if it's also very windy; and keep indoor temperatures at about 65 degrees.
  • If you have to go outside, don't stay out in the cold or the wind for very long.
  • Wear two or three thinner layers of loose-fitting clothing. (They are warmer than a single layer of thick clothing.) Always wear:
    • a hat
    • gloves or mittens (mittens are warmer)
    • a coat and boots
    • a scarf to cover your mouth and nose and protect your lungs from very cold air
  • Stay dry; wet clothing chills your body quickly.
  • Go indoors if you start shivering; it's a warning sign that you're losing body heat.
  • Know the warning signs of hypothermia: lots of shivering; cold skin that is pale or ashy; feeling very tired, confused and sleepy; feeling weak; problems walking; slowed breathing or heart rate. Note: Don't rely on shivering alone as a warning sign, since older people tend to shiver less, and some, not at all, as their body temperature drops. Call 911 if you think you or someone else has hypothermia.

Going back inside for a cup of hot chocolate.† Stay warm!

Gary Barg

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