Helping Older Adults Avoid Hypothermia
Tips to Stay Safe in Cold Weather
When you think of hypothermia, you may picture someone being stranded in a snowstorm or falling into icy water. The reality is that many adults over the age of 65 are at risk of hypothermia—and it can happen at home. Older adults are more susceptible to hypothermia due to aging, some medications, and underlying conditions like diabetes.
The National Institutes of Health define hypothermia as having a core body temperature below 95 degrees. Even mild exposure to cold weather or a small drop in temperature can cause hypothermia in older adults.
What are the symptoms of hypothermia?
- Not taking action to get warm
- Pale or blue skin
How can you prevent hypothermia? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Maintain a warm home. The thermostat should be set to a minimum of 68 degrees. We understand that it can be tempting to keep your house colder to save money on heating costs, but doing so may increase your risk of hypothermia. Make sure all windows and doors are tightly sealed so that you are not losing heat through the cracks.
- Get assistance with heating costs if needed. Keep in mind that the Office of Community Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, offers assistance with home energy bills through the Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
- Talk to your doctor. Make sure you are aware if any medications you are taking may make you more at risk for hypothermia.
- When you go outside, bundle up. Body heat can be lost quickly through our heads and our hands. Always wear a warm hat, gloves, and scarf. Dress in layers to keep in the warm air.
- Stay dry. If your clothes become wet from snow or rain, change quickly.
- Push fluids. Make sure you are drinking enough water and sipping on hot beverages like tea to help you stay warm—and hydrated.
Please check on your elderly neighbors, friends, and family members to make sure they are staying safe and warm at home.