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January 5, 2013

From the Office: Stay warm during cold winter months to avoid hypothermia

The winter months can be a difficult and dangerous time for anyone living in this area of the country where temperatures regularly fall below freezing. 

With rising fuel costs, seniors are making decisions in turning back their thermostat dial to conserve on fuel. In most parts of the country, a 60-degree day hardly counts as a cold snap, yet if a senior lives in a poorly insulated home and keeps the heat off, such a day might be chilly enough to cause hazardous drop in the body temperature. 

As people get older, their bodies become a little less efficient at regulating their body temperature. If the body temperature drops below 94 degrees, hypothermia starts setting in.

Hypothermia symptoms usually start gradually. As the symptoms progress, the ability to think and move often become clouded. The individual may be unaware that they need help. As the thought process is impaired, they fail to recognize that they are becoming colder.

We all need to be aware of the warning signs of hypothermia, and ways to prevent hypothermia from occurring.

Symptoms of hypothermia may include:

• Confusion, forgetfulness, or drowsiness

• Slurred speech

• Uncontrollable shivering

• Slow shallow breathing

• Stumbling and loss of coordination

• Stiff muscles

• Numbness

• Slow irregular heartbeat

• Weak pulse

What to do if you suspect hypothermia:

If you suspect someone is suffering from hypothermia, first try to take the person’s temperature. If the temperature is 96 degrees or below, call 911. While waiting for help, the best thing you can do for the individual is to keep her warm by wrapping her in a blanket, towel or whatever is handy. DO NOT put her in a hot bath or shower or offer alcohol, and furthermore, do not rub any part of the person’s body since her skin may be fragile. You can even use your own body heat by getting close to the person.

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