• Climate Temperature Troubles With Older Adults: What You Need to Know

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    Climate Temperature Troubles With Older Adults: What You Need to Know

    By Debra Wood, RN

    News of seniors succumbing to winter’s biting cold seems to surprise people all across the country. How does aging alter your ability to endure seasonal extremes? Withstanding cold weather and regulating body temperature become more challenging as people grow older. Medications, chronic ailments, and entrenched habits contribute to increased risk of a heat disorder called hyperthermia, and a cold disorder called hypothermia.

    Some physical changes associated with aging put us at higher risk. A sense of security or finances also adds to the problem. For example, some seniors may not feel safe opening windows. Others hesitate to use the air conditioner or heater due to the cost of electricity.

    Body Temperature Regulation   

    In cold temperatures, one way that the body attempts to keep warm is by shivering. But, when a person ages, there are many conditions that can affect the body’s ability to remain warm. Thyroid conditions, circulatory ailments, and dementia are some examples. In addition, if older adults live a more sedentary lifestyle, they do not produce as much body heat. Medications, illicit drugs, and alcohol can also impede a person’s ability to stay warm.

    The Dangers of Extreme Cold

    A drop in core body temperature can be deadly. Symptoms include confusion; sleepiness; slow, slurred speech; a weak, slow pulse; extremity stiffness; and slow reactions. Shivering may or may not be present. Check your body temperature with a thermometer. If it’s below 96ºF (35.6ºC), call for medical help.

    To help someone with hypothermia until emergency medical help arrives, keep the person warm with additional blankets or your own body. If the person can swallow, offer warm liquids, but no alcohol. Alcohol expands blood vessels near the surface and lets needed warmth escape. Do not rub the person’s skin.

    Preventing Cold-Related Illnesses   

    Take these steps to stay warm when the days turn cold:

    • When you are home: ##Keep the heat on.
    • Wear multiple layers, including long underwear.
    • Use extra blankets.
    • When you are going out: ##Wear gloves, a hat, and several layers.
    • Plan your trips wisely. Stay indoors on cold, windy days.
    • Remember, never use your stove or oven for heat.
    • Make arrangements for someone to check on you a couple of times a day.

    Aging makes regulating body temperature more challenging during hot and cold spells. Seasonal temperature changes and activities once taken for granted pose potential problems with declining reserves, chronic conditions, and medications. Play it safe—wear seasonal clothing, modify habits, and create a buddy system to check on each other.

     

    Compliments of Cape Cod Healthcare

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    EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

    This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

    January 09, 2015