When the weather gets cold, elders especially may develop a reduction in their body temperature more easily, as a result of decreased ability in temperature control and decrease in subcutaneous fat. Excessive drop in body temperature can lead to hypothermia. Elders with chronic illnesses, such as chronic respiratory diseases or asthma, are also vulnerable to disease deterioration in cold weather.
Cold Weather Tips
- Put on adequate clothing. Wear several layers of not too tight or too bulky clothing. Always wear a hat and gloves, since ears and fingertips as well as noses are extremely susceptible to frost nip and frost bite.
- Consume hot and easily digestible food and beverages with higher calories, like hot milk, soup, noodles and rice. Remember, alcohol actually accelerates the loss of body heat because it dilates blood vessels, so avoid alcoholic beverages.
- Keep the home environment warm but well ventilated. Do not overload electricity supply.
- Remain indoors or in places with sunlight. Continue with usual daily activities, but do more exercise to generate heat, improve blood circulation, and maintain flexibility of joints.
- Exercise care and concern for the elderly. If you happen to know of a single elder living alone or with chronic illnesses, give him/her a call or pay a visit.
What is hypothermia?
Hypothermia is defined as a fall in the core body temperature to below 35 degrees C (95 degrees F). Factors such as diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, use of hypnotics and alcohol predispose to the development of hypothermia. Anyone suspected to be suffering from hypothermia should be taken to see the doctor or taken to the hospital right away.
- Mild - (body temp 90-95 degrees) The victim will have cold skin, especially of the hands and feet, pallor, excessive shivering, unsteady gait, difficulty in speaking or slurred speech and confusion. Some elders may not have the shivering response.
- Moderate - (85-90 degrees) As the body temperature drops, victims become stuporous. Moderate hypothermia is characterized by loss of shivering, muscle rigidity, slowing down of heart beat, loss of voluntary movement and gradual loss of consciousness.
- Severe - (less than 78 degrees) Victims become unresponsive with irregular heart beat, fall in blood pressure, total loss of consciousness and cardiac arrest.
Who is most susceptible?
- Very old - May be unaware of their limitations. Due to limited mobility may be forced to spend increased amount of time exposed to the cold weather due to slow ambulation.
- Very young - Thermoregulatory system is still immature. Babies rely on adults for warmth.
- Infirmed - Due to illness or injury can't remove themselves from the cold source.