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Posts Tagged ‘elderly at risk for hypothermia’

RIO GRANDE CITY, TX - AUGUST 05:  A patient ha...
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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Certified Wellness Coach, Licensed Massage Therapist, ACSM Personal Trainer

Winter weather brings a host of health hazards. Aside from falling on ice (which I covered in this post, “Winter Ice Can be Not So Nice–Avoid Meeting the Pavement!” here), simply being too cold can be dangerous to your health. Staying warm isn’t merely about comfort. If your body is too cold for too long, you may develop hypothermia, a very dangerous, and sometimes fatal, condition. Read more to protect yourself and your loved ones from the cold!

Read what the Illinois Department of Public Health, HealthBeat website has to saw about hypothermia. Link to the website for more infomation here.

What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a drop in body temperature to 95 degrees or less. It can be fatal if not detected promptly and treated properly. In the United States, about 700 deaths occur each year from hypothermia.

When the body temperature drops, the blood vessels near the surface of the body narrow to reduce heat loss. Muscles begin to tighten to make heat. If the body temperature continues to drop, the person will begin to shiver. The shivering continues until the temperature drops to about 90 degrees. Temperatures below 90 degrees create a life-threatening situation.

Who is Most At Risk for Hypothermia

While hypothermia can happen to anyone, the elderly run the highest risk because their bodies often do not adjust to changes in temperature quickly. Elderly people may be unaware that they are gradually getting colder. Hypothermia usually develops over a period of time, anywhere from a few days to several weeks, and even mildly cool indoor temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees can trigger it. If you have elderly relatives or friends who live alone, encourage them to set their thermostats above 65 degrees to avoid hypothermia.

What Are the Signs of Hypothermia?

Signs of hypothermia include:
• forgetfulness
• drowsiness
• slurred speech
• change in appearance (e.g., puffy face)
• weak pulse
• slow heartbeat
• and very slow and shallow breathing

If the body temperature drops to or below 86 degrees, a person may slip into a coma or have a death-like appearance.

What To Do If You Suspect Someone Has Hypothermia

1. If you notice symptoms of hypothermia in a person, take his or her temperature.
2. If it is 95 degrees or below, call a doctor or ambulance or take the victim directly to a hospital.
3. To prevent further heat loss, wrap the patient in a warm blanket.
4. Apply a hot water bottle or electric heating pad (set on low) to the person’s stomach.
5. If the victim is alert, give small quantities of warm food or drink.

What Not To Do To a Hypothermia Victim

There are several things you should not do to a hypothermia victim.
1. Do not give alcoholic beverages.
2. Do not give a hot shower or bath, since it could cause shock.
3. Generally, do not try to treat hypothermia at home. The condition should be treated in a hospital.

Tips for Staying Warm

These tips to keep you warm are from the New York City Office of Emergency Management. Link here.

Exposure to cold can cause life-threatening health conditions. Avoid serious conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia, by keeping warm.

  • Wear a hat, hood, or scarf, as most heat is lost through the head.
  • Wear layers, as they provide better insulation and warmth.
  • Keep fingertips, earlobes, and noses covered if you go outside.
  • Keep clothing dry; if a layer becomes wet, remove it.
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