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Extreme cold poses serious health risks to elderly

Frigid Arctic Blasts and record-setting lows have been seizing many parts of the nation this winter, leaving millions of people vulnerable to winter’s harsh elements.

People of all ages are advised to exercise extreme caution in such dangerous conditions, but the elderly are especially susceptible to serious and in some cases life-threatening, health risks when exposed to the extreme cold.

Dianna Costa, a registered nurse with Caring Hearts of Drexel Hill, PA, told CBS Philly it can take only a second for an elderly loved one to make his or her way outside, and then it might be too late.

“They don’t have the shivering response that we have sometimes, and they don’t react to the cold as we do,” Costa said.

“A lot of times it’s not neglect on the part of the people who they live with, it’s more just the elderly and [those with] Alzheimer’s do not remember that they’re not supposed to go outside.”

Tips to Stay Safe and Warm in Frigid Temps

  • Exposure to negative digits can put you at risk for frostbite within minutes, so stay indoors as much as possible. If you have an elderly neighbor or loved one, check on them often.
  • If you have to go outside, mittens are better than gloves because of the body heat created by your fingers. Be sure to wear lots of dry clothing, and if you get wet, get inside as quickly as possible.
  • If possible, keep your car in a garage, and keep your gas tank at least a quarter full at all times. Check your car battery regularly. Older batteries often can’t be jump-started if they’ve been exposed to negative digits for an extended period of time.
  • Be extra vigilant when using supplemental heating devices (e.g., space heaters, stoves, ovens, candles, etc.). These can pose fire hazards if not used properly.
  • Protect your pipes by letting the water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Even a trickle of running water can help prevent your pipes from freezing.

From all of us here at Caring Hearts, stay safe and warm this winter!


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