New Round of Extreme Cold Puts Elderly at Risk

File:Snow branch ice.jpgWith a new, extreme round of cold weather upon us today and for the next few days, it’s critical to wear layers, stay warm, protect yourself against falls and injuries, and check in on elderly relatives, friends, and neighbors who may be at particular risk of cold-related health problems. Simple, quick steps can help you and others stay warm and safe in the current, life-threatening freeze.

Here’s what you need to know to stay safe:

  • Protect your skin. At temperatures of 15 to 30 below, exposed skin can get frostbitten in minutes. For older adults with reduced blood circulation or those improperly dressed, the risk is even higher.
  • Try not to stay outside more than 20 minutes. Wear a hat that comes down over your ears, protect your face and neck. Mittens are better than gloves, layers are best.
  • If you think you may have suffered frostbite, do not thaw using hot water or a heating pad. Use lukewarm water or your own body heat to thaw.  Seek medical attention.
  • Wear layers the right way. If you must go outside, wear layers to protect against heat loss and wetness. And don’t forget your hat.
  • Make sure your home is warm enough. Frigid weather can pose special risks to older people. Set the thermostat to at least 68 to 70 degrees. Make sure feet are kept warm
  • Protect against falls and injuries. With temperatures this low, the salt normally used to melt ice and snow on roads and sidewalks doesn’t work as well.
  • Warn your kids and grandkids. Younger folks, who may not understand the risks of these record temperatures, also need to be encouraged to take the necessary precautions.
  • Check on elderly neighbors or relatives to be sure they’re warm and safe. Don’t allow pets to stay outside except for short periods.