In addition to producing high heating bills, the cold weather that has gripped much of the country poses health dangers related to hypothermia, especially in the elderly. However, there are ways to protect oneself from excessive loss of body heat both at home and outdoors.
Hypothermia occurs when body temperature falls to 96 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Its symptoms include slowed or slurred speech, sleepiness or confusion, shivering or stiffness in the arms and legs, poor control over body movements or slow reactions as well as a weak pulse.
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), seniors are particularly vulnerable to hypothermia due to underlying medical conditions and because they tend to be less active than younger people and produce less body heat.
Consequently, NIA experts recommend keeping the temperature of the home at a minimum of 68 degrees. To stay warm inside it is a good idea to wear long underwear, socks and slippers. A blanket can be used to keep legs and shoulders comfortable, while a hat or cap can warm the head.
Venturing outdoors, it is important to wear a scarf and gloves or mittens to prevent loss of body heat through the hands and feet. A hat is particularly important because a significant portion of body heat loss occurs through the head.
In addition, wearing several layers of warm loose clothing can help keep warm air close to the body.
Finally, NIA advises seniors to check with their healthcare providers as some medicines may increase the risk of hypothermia.