Be Careful In The Cold

As we age our body temperatures are lower than they used to be with less body fat, a sluggish metabolism and slower circulation. We get colder faster, and are more likely to slip and fall. It is estimated that by the year 2060 there will be approximately 98.2 million people over the age of 65, and approximately 19.7 million people over the age of 85/

Did you know that even indoors a senior could have hypothermia if your inside house temperature drops below 65 degrees fahrenheit, you could be at risk. When going outside be sure that you are properly dressed when going outside layering your clothes is a good idea. Inside your home make sure you have a blanket nearby and your heaters are working properly. Hypothermia happens when your body is in freezing temperatures like being outside when the weather is too cold, or being in freezing water. Your body loses heat faster than it does producing it. If your body temperature is too low it can cause a lot of problems including death. There are 3 stages to hypothermia, mild, moderate, and severe.

During the first two stages you may not recognize that something is wrong. 

Shivering: 

This is what our bodies tell us it is trying to generate heat. This could also be the first signal of mild hypothermia. Try eating something sugary; it could help to ease the shiver. If you are extremely shivering and it stops suddenly your body temperature might still be dropping which could make hypothermia starting in the severe stage. 

Hunger: 

It sounds weird, but some people actually get a sensation of being very hungry. But as your body temperature drops you may not want to eat anything at all. Hypothermia can take away all of your senses, when this happens there will be less energy to get your body warm. When you are out in the cold, you should eat something, this can help to ward off hypothermia.

Fatigue: 

Being sleepy gradually is also a sign of  mild hypothermia, in the beginning you might feel a little lethargic, then you could feel drowsy. When this happens you need to get out of the cold, lie down warm, if someone is with you get them to monitor your breathing.

Confusion: 

Your body temperature has dropped below normal, and your brain isn’t working as efficiently as it usually does. Your reactions are slower, your judgement seems to be impaired these are signs that hypothermia is happening to your body. If there is any way possible try to insulate your body with a blanket or another warm surface. If you have non- caffeinated beverages this could help to regulate your body temperature.

Slurred Speech:

If your speech is slower than usual or your speech is slurred the hypothermia could be progressing, you need to get into warmer clothes and a warm place. If you are with someone and you see this happening, call 911 immediately. 

Weak Pulse:

A weak pulse is very dangerous, the heart rate is decreasing, this is likely severe hypothermia.

Shallow Breathing:

When hypothermia is severe the breathing will become more shallow and slower, you could even become unconscious.

Clumsiness:

This could happen when hypothermia has become severe. A person may appear very drunk, with confusion and poor motor skills, you may stumble when walking and mumble when speaking.

Pale Features:

Even in the moderate stage of hypothermia someone’s lips  and skin may be pale or blue, the skin is icy cold.

Loss of Consciousness:

When a person’s body temperature drops below 86 degrees F their pale skin could start to look puffy. They can seem to be disoriented, and their behavior might be irrational, they could also stop breathing which could cause organ failure and cardiac arrest.  

If you have to go out in the cold, dress warmly, try to go with someone in case something happens. Have a cell phone with you in case you need to call 911.

A weekly feature for Lumby, Cherryville, and area seniors. For more information about any of the following please contact Colleen or Jenny at (250) 547-8866 Whitevalley Community Resource Centre Office (250) 547-8866. Funding support provided by Interior Health, the Province of British Columbia (Community Gaming), United Way Southern Interior and United Way Lower Mainland.

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