When the temperature drops there is another illness that can strike the elderly and the vulnerable, such as the young and the sick, it is hypothermia.
The elderly are at extreme risk of hypothermia due to their lack of mobility (the ability to burn off calories to maintain a higher body temperature), existing illnesses and the fact that most of the time they are feeling cold and just don’t want to bother anyone.
Hypothermia is a killer. It can set in slowly, making the casualty unaware that they are becoming ill. Or, it can strike someone down in less than ten minutes. No matter how it affects the casualty, if not treated properly, the end result is death!
Two things that speed up the onset of hypothermia are the wind and by being wet. The wind whisks away body heat extremely quickly and a daily temperature is greatly reduced by there being a strong wind (it is know as the wind chill factor). Water also sucks the body’s heat away from itself rapidly. The combination of being wet on a cold windy day is a recipe for disaster.
Ways to help a loved one on a day out avoid the risks of succumbing to a cold weather injury are obvious.
- Before you go out check the weather where you will be heading. If it is going to be a mixture of cold, wet and windy then you might want to make different plans.
- If you are going out then make sure the elder has adequate clothing on. A warm, wind-proof jacket is a must. But just as importantly are gloves, a woolly scarf and hat. A tremendous amount of heat is lost through the head and neck area.
- Watch your loved one for signs of hypothermia. The earliest one, and most obvious, is shivering. This is the body trying to warm itself up. One of the later signs is acting out of character, like they are drunk!