Hypothermia and older adults
The cold truth about hypothermia is that people aged 65 years and older face this danger every winter.
Older adults are especially vulnerable to hypothermia because their body's response to cold can be diminished by underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, some medicines including over-the-counter cold remedies, and aging itself. As a result, hypothermia can develop in older adults after even relatively mild exposure to cold weather or a small drop in temperature.
Speaking about the issue, Dr SS Agarwal - National President IMA and Padma Shri Awardee Dr KK Aggarwal Honorary Secretary General IMA in a joint statement said, "When the temperature gets too cold or the body's heat production decreases, hypothermia occurs. Hypothermia is defined as having a core body temperature below 95 degrees. Someone suffering from hypothermia may show one or more of the following signs: slowed or slurred speech, sleepiness or confusion, shivering or stiffness in the arms and legs, poor control over body movements or slow reactions, or a weak pulse."
Tips to avoid hypothermia:
- When going outside in the cold, it is important to wear a hat, scarf, and gloves or mittens.
- Check the weather forecasts for windy and cold weather. Try to stay inside or in a warm place on cold and windy days. If you have to go out, wear warm clothes including a hat, scarf and gloves or mittens to prevent loss of body heat through your head and hands. A waterproof coat or jacket can help you stay warm if it's cold and snowy.
- Carry a fully charged cellphone.
- A hat is particularly important because a large portion of body heat can be lost through the head.
- Wear several layers of loose clothing when it's cold. The layers will trap warm air between them. Don't wear tight clothing because it can keep your blood from flowing freely. This can lead to loss of body heat.
- Check if any prescription or over-the-counter medications may increase your risk for hypothermia. Some medicines used by older people can increase the risk of accidental hypothermia. These include drugs used to treat anxiety, , or nausea. Some over-the-counter cold remedies can also cause problems.
- When the temperature has dropped, drink alcohol moderately, if at all. Alcoholic drinks can make you lose body heat.
- Make sure you eat enough food to keep up your weight. If you don't eat well, you might have less fat under your skin. Body fat helps you to stay warm.