A cold house can result in hypothermia for older adults.  They are more susceptible to hypothermia for several reasons, including certain medicines, hypothyroidism, health problems that keep the blood from flowing normally (like diabetes), and some skin problems where your body loses more heat than normal.  Also, their body’s ability to regulate temperature and to sense cold may lessen with age.

How do you know if someone has hypothermia?  Look for the “umbles” – stumbles, mumbles, fumbles, and grumbles.  These include:

  • Confusion or sleepiness
  • Slowed, slurred speech, or shallow breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Change in behavior or in the way a person looks
  • A lot of shivering or no shivering; stiffness in the arms or legs
  • Poor control over body movements or slow reactions

How Can I Stay Safe?

  • Set your thermostat for at least 68˚
  • Dress warmly on cold days even if you are staying in the house.
  • Wear several layers of loose clothing when it’s cold.  The layers will trap warm air between them.  Don’t wear tight clothing because it can keep your blood from flowing freely.  This can lead to loss of body heat.
  • Ask your doctor how the medicines you are taking affect body heat.
  • Make sure you eat enough food to keep up your weight.  If you don’t eat well, you might have less fat under your skin.  Body fat helps you to stay warm.

If you think someone has hypothermia, call 911 immediately!  Cover them with a blanket.  Don’t rub their legs or arms.  Don’t warm them in a bath.  Don’t use a heating pad.  For more information on this topic, click on one of these links: Hypothermia – A Cold Weather Hazard or Stay Safe in Cold Weather.

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