Editorial: Beware winter's bitter blast
Every once in a while, the thermometer takes such a tumble it gets everyone’s attention in a hurry.
When temperatures outdoors are almost unbearable, it’s important to know what to do. Home Instead Senior Care has the following tips for people over age 65, who account for nearly one-half of all hypothermia deaths.
To stay warm:
—Keep the thermostat at 65 degrees, at least. Consistently check it to make sure the home is sufficiently warm. Even as heating costs rise, safety should be a priority.
—Put a carbon monoxide detector near where sleeping’s done.
—Ensure there’s adequate insulation, and check and clean the fireplace and furnace. Furnace filters should be replaced monthly.
—Minimize drafts by filling old socks with sand and using them in drafty windowsills and door jams. Weather-strip around windows and doors. Keep doors to unused rooms closed and close curtains at night.
—Add an extra blanket to the bed and warm the bed in advance with a hot water bottle. Never use an electric blanket—it may be difficult to operate the controls if the temperature needs to be adjusted in the night.
—Dress in layers of loose fitting clothing. If going outside, make sure the head is covered.
To prevent falls:
—Take a couple of minutes per day and stretch limbs to loosen muscles.
—Try to stay inside—make arrangements for someone to shovel, and salt driveways and walkways. Have a caregiver pick up mail and/or groceries.
—Wear shoes or boots with a non-skid sole.
—Have handrails installed on outside walls for frequently used walkways.
—If using a cane or walker, check the rubber tips to make sure they’re not worn smooth.
To build a network:
—Stay in touch with family, friends and neighbors. Schedule phone calls or enlist the help of a professional caregiver to come in for an hour a week.
—Make arrangements for assistance in case of a blizzard or power outage. Keep important numbers in an emergency kit, along with non-perishable foods, water and medications.
—Be familiar with local resources.
Whether old or young, bitter weather affects everyone. Bellin Health offers this advice for battling the cold:
—Dress appropriately. Wear loose, dry layers, but don’t overdress. Make the opportunity to shed layers to adjust to weather changes. Try a mix of cotton or wool underneath, with something waterproof on top.
—Put a hat on because most body heat, about 40 percent, is lost through the head.
—Try mittens instead of gloves, as they provide more warmth for hands.
—Wear comfortable, waterproof, insulated boots to keep feet dry and warm, thus helping prevent hypothermia or frostbite.
—Drink warm beverages, not hot.
—Avoid alcohol, as these beverages prevent the body from generating heat and can cause dehydration, leaving one more susceptible to cold weather.
—Learn the signs of hypothermia (including severe shivering, dizziness, drowsiness and confusion) and frostbite (such as grayish, white or yellowed skin, pain or numbness or waxy skin). Get medical attention immediately if noticing any of these symptoms.
—Get out of wet clothes immediately. Warm up using a blanket. Drink warm fluids but don’t immediately jump into a steaming hot shower or bath.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency shares these reminders:
—Bring pets indoors and ensure they have a warm shelter area with unfrozen water.
—Make sure vehicles have an emergency kit including an ice scraper, blanket and flashlight—and keep the fuel tank above half full.