Cold weather can affect the health of seniors. Making sure that seniors knows the dangers which cold weather can bring is important. Listed below are some dangers that seniors face in the winter; how to prevent these dangers and how to treat them as well. It is written to carers because some of the signs seniors may not realize themselves, but it is still full of good advice if you are a senior on your own.
- Hypothermia: Hypothermia is sneaky. People may not even realize that it’s happening until their core body temperature drops too low. Because a senior’s body doesn’t adjust to changes in the temperature quickly either, some seniors may not even realize that their bodies are getting colder quickly enough or at all. So, the signs to look for first in a senior who you suspect has hypothermia is if the person feels of cold or is shivering. The person affected may also become withdrawn socially.
The next phase is confusion, slurring of speech and sleepiness. In the most severe stage, hypothermia can cause the heart to gradually slow down to a dangerous level also. In addition, to prevent hypothermia, seniors wearing multi-layered clothing as well as gloves, warm boots and a hat is important. If hypothermia does occur though, remove any wet clothing from the victim and wrap the person in a warm blanket. Don’t have the person take a hot shower or bath either because this can cause shock. To increase body temperature, give the person warm beverages to drink and keep him or her wrapped up in the blanket until sufficiently warm.
- Frostbite: Frostbite risk is increased in people who have reduced blood circulation or if the person is improperly dressed. Frostbite can affect the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, toes and fingers. It can cause these areas to lose color and feeling in the affected areas as well as permanently damaging the body’s tissue. What to look for with frostbite is if the person’s extremities are stinging, tingling, aching; reduced blood flow to feet and hands evident by bluish or waxy pale skin. To avoid getting frostbite, wearing warm clothes in layers and keeping dry is important. If frostbite does occur, don’t rub or massage the area which is frostbitten; this can cause further damage. Get the victim to a warm room as soon as possible and immerse the affected parts in warm water or use body heat. Do not use other heating sources such as a heat lamp, heating pad, radiator heat or heat from a stove. This is because the frostbite areas are numb and can be burnt without the person feeling it.
- Heart attacks: With the cold weather, heart attacks are more common. The cold increases the blood pressure, and this increases the strain on the heart. Also, the heart has to work harder to keep a person’s body warm when the temperature drops. The signs of a heart attack are shortness of breath, sudden fatigue or dizziness; sometimes chest pain, nausea, sweating, vomiting, a blue tinge to the skin and an irregular heartbeat. To help prevent heart attacks, seniors should not overdo it like shoveling sidewalks and driveways. Bundling up in clothing which suits the weather also is needed. If any of the symptoms do show up in a senior you love, don’t let them be ignored; call 911 immediately.
Following the tips above can help to keep a senior as safe and healthy as possible during cold weather.