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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Hypothermia more likely affects elderly

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cold weather and wind chill temperatures below zero can kill, especially with older people.

"Elderly in poorly heated homes or those of low income may unknowingly keep temperatures in a dangerous range in attempts to lower their heating bills," Karen Funkenbusch, University of Missouri Extension safety specialist, said.

As senior citizens find the cost of living rising along with their medications and no increase in their COLA (cost of living adjustment) for this year, seniors are trying to find ways to cut back that could threaten their safety.

Every year, about 25,000 elderly adults die from hypothermia, according to the National Institute of Aging. Even temperatures as mild as 60 degrees can trigger hypothermia.

According to the Mayo Clinic Web site, www.mayoclinic.com, "Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature is around 98.6 degrees. Hypothermia occurs as your body temperature passes below 95 degrees. When your body temperature drops, your heart, nervous system and other organs cannot work correctly. Left untreated, hypothermia eventually leads to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and to death."

Friends, neighbors, family members or any one who might know of an elderly person who may need help when cold weather arrives should check on the elderly and make sure they have everything they need to make it through a cold spell.

Funkenbusch said room temperature should be checked daily with a reliable thermometer separate from the thermostat. Dressing in several layers of loose, warm clothing creates air pockets that help retain body heat. Wearing a hat and scarf reduces heat loss through the head and neck. Most of a person's body heat is lost through the head.

According to the University of Missouri Extension, "Victims of hypothermia may become confused or disoriented. Other symptoms may include slow or irregular speech, shallow or very slow breathing, slow pulse and cold, pale skin. Victims may seem unaware of colder conditions. Call an ambulance if you believe someone may be a victim of hypothermia. Insulate the victim with blankets, towels, pillows or even newspapers. Hot baths, electric blankets and hot water bottles can be dangerous because direct heat may force cold blood toward the heart, lungs and brain."

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