By Jo Ellen Bleavins of BMA Management, Ltd.
Our daytime high temperatures that past two days have failed to reach the freezing mark. Our nighttime lows have been in the teens. Weather forecasters are predicting the possibility of snow over the weekend. They are saying that this weather pattern will likely to continue over the next several weeks.
All this and the official start of winter is still more than five weeks away.
Cold weather can be dangerous for older adults. They are among those most vulnerable because of a diminished ability to endure long periods of cold temperatures.
One source, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, certainly has all bases covered when it comes to Illinois and surrounding states. On one hand, a drier than average winter with average temperatures is forecasted. At the same time, we fall into a part of the country which has an “equal chance for above, near or below normal” temperatures and precipitation.
Over the past two years, no area of Illinois escaped the wrath of winter weather.
Last year, we endured the polar vortex.
Some highlights of the winter of 2012-13 included the following:
On Dec. 26 of 2012, much of southern Illinois was crippled by near blizzard conditions and six to 12 inches of snow.
On March 5, 2013, a storm dumped six to ten inches of snow on the northern third of the state.
On March 24, 2013, central Illinois was clobbered by a record-setting snowfall, thunder and lightning.
In the past few weeks leading up to the official start of winter, periods of snow, ice and extremely cold temperatures has hit the entire state.
Older adults are among those who are especially vulnerable to winter weather because of a diminished ability to endure long periods of exposure to cold temperatures. Older adults often make less body heat because their metabolisms are slower and they are less physically active. Certain diseases such as diabetes, thyroid problems, Parkinson’s Disease, and arthritis and some medications, including over-the-counter cold remedies, can make it harder for your body to stay warm.
Some older adults can even develop hypothermia after exposure to relatively mild cold weather or a small drop in temperature.
With hypothermia, your body temperature drops to dangerously low levels. Among older adults, significant health problems can occur when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees. Hypothermia can cause a heart attack, problems with your kidneys, and damage to your liver. It can cost you your life.
- Set the temperature in your home or apartment to at least 68 degrees. Be sure to check the temperature often.
- Eat well-balanced meals. Do not drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages as they cause your body to lose heat more rapidly.
- Dress in layers as the air between the layers help you keep warm. Wear wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers as these fabrics hold in heat better than cotton. Wear a hat or cap.
- Wear long johns under your clothes. Throw a blanket over your legs. Wear socks and slippers.
- Wear long johns under your pajamas. Use extra covers. Wear a cap or hat when in bed.
- Stay inside when it is very windy outside. A high wind can quickly lower your body temperature.
- Finds ways to stay active.
- Talk with your doctor about any health problems and medicines that can make hypothermia a special problem for you.
- Ask relatives, friends, neighbors to check on you frequently, especially when the weather conditions are extremely cold.
- Know the signs of Hypothermia and watch for them.
Signs of Hypothermia
Pale skin, cold feet and hands.
Puffy or swollen face.
Slower speech, slurring words.
Anger or confusion.
Trouble walking or moving.
Stiff or jerky arm or leg movements.
Slow, irregular heart beat.
Slow, shallow breathing.
Blacking out, loss of consciousness.
If you think someone has signs of Hypothermia, call 911 and get medical attention immediately.
Until medical help arrives, get the person into a warm room or shelter. Wrap the person in a blanket. Warm the center of the body first. Do not rub the person’s arms or legs, do not use a heating pad, and do not try to warm the person in a bath.
All affordable assisted living communities managed by BMA Management, Ltd. are certified and surveyed by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. All assisted living communities are licensed and surveyed by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“BMA Management, Ltd. is the leading provider of assisted living in Illinois
and one of the 20 largest providers of assisted living in the United States.”
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