February 18, 2004 at 6:59 PM EST - Updated June 26 at 7:13 AM
Cold Weather Emergencies - Tips for Seniors
•Arrange to call a relative or friend the same time daily as a check-in, no call would alert the relative or friend to check on you.
•Keep your thermostat set to at least 65 degrees.
•Eat and drink. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat. Keep the body replenished with fluids to prevent dehydration.
•Wear layers of loose-fitting, light-weight, warm clothing. Remove layers to avoid overheating, perspiration, and subsequent chill.
•Stay inside as much as possible, avoiding icy side walks. When going outside dress warmly in layers with fabrics such as wool or polypropylene, cover all exposed areas of skin, especially nose and ears. A mask or scarf over your mouth helps to warm air for breathing. Also wear a warm hat, an unprotected head loses a great deal of the body’s total heat production. Wearing rubber protective shoe coverings or boots helps improve traction.
•Head for shelter if you get wet or cold.
•Don’t drink alcohol while in the cold. It makes the body lose heat faster.
•Watch for signs of frostbite, which occurs as a result of prolonged exposure to cold. Frostbitten skin is pale or blue, stiff or rubbery to touch and feels cold and numb. Get medical attention immediately!
•Watch for signs of hypothermia. Warning signs may include uncontrollable shivering (when advanced the shivering may stop), memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, stumbling, weakness, fatigue, drowsiness, a body temperature below 95 degrees F (35 degrees C), shallow breathing, a weak pulse and apparent exhaustion. Symptoms in the elderly may also include sleepiness, difficulty walking, bloated face, pale or oddly pink skin, trembling on one side of the body or in one arm or leg, or stiffness. Seek medical attention immediately! Early recognition of symptoms is vital.
•If medical attention is not available, warm the trunk of the body first and at a slow rate so not to cause heart failure. Make sure the person is in warm clothing, and wrap them in a warm blanket including the head and neck. Do not rub or massage the victim’s skin. Do not give hot beverages or food but warm beverages only.
With winter temperatures arriving early in Northwest Ohio, it’s time to prepare for possible weather-related emergencies, when snow or ice storms either make food shopping difficult, or cause interruption of home-delivered meal services. There are supplies that every home should have on hand for use only during these kinds of emergencies.
First, food. There are some foods that have a long shelf life, and will tide you over in case of emergency. (Be sure to have a non-electric can opener for emergency use as well!) The following foods are good for this purpose:
canned soups tuna fish boned canned chicken
baked beans rice boxed macaroni & cheese
peanut butter spaghetti canned vegetables
non-fat dry milk jelly canned fruits and juices
biscuit mix crackers coffee, tea, hot chocolate
oatmeal cereals instant mashed potatoes
raisins cheese in jars canned stews and meats
If you have salt or sugar restrictions, you should not use convenience foods such as these except in an emergency. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to use some of these foods in planning menus toward the end of the month, then replace them so your shelf will always be stocked with fresh supplies.
Second, think about a water supply. You can store water in clean milk jugs, in covered pans or in pitchers. A second line of defense to prevent dehydration is fruit juices or soft drinks.
Third, think about heat and light supplies to help in case of power failure. These will include:
extra blankets candles, matches, Sterno fuel for cooking
wool socks heavy sweaters flashlight with fresh batteries
boots battery-operated radio
Finally, remember to stay in touch with your neighbors. Check on neighbors who might need additional help during weather-related emergencies. Ask them to do the same for you, or organize a telephone/door-to-door system of checking in during emergency situations. Safety is easier in groups.