6 Jan 20210 Comments
Here we are… again! Smack in the middle of winter! This year, we are much more
likely to be outside – visiting with friends and family and neighbors and, hopefully, continuing our walks and exercise. But did you know that hypothermia is a real danger, especially for those 60 and older, according to the CDC? Extremely low temperatures are well known to induce hypothermia, but mild hypothermia can start at an outdoor temperature of just 60 degrees.
Here are some tips for staying warm and safe this winter, both indoors and out.
1. Keep the temperature at home properly regulated.
Common wisdom suggests that if you are looking to save money during fall and winter, you should keep the heat low. However, anything lower than 68 degrees in a poorly insulated house can be dangerous. Older adults may have a harder time recognizing that their body is struggling to keep warm. This means that the person may simply be unaware that they are getting too cold, and their health is getting compromised.
To avoid this, keep the thermostat at a minimum of 68-70 degrees, and check the windows and doors for drafts. Consider installing a smart thermostat. These devices are designed to save money by learning the inhabitants’ schedules, and efficiently heat the home only when someone is present. If you are concerned about heating costs, don’t hesitate to contact their utilities company and ask about local and state heating assistance programs.
2. Use heating appliances with caution.
If you have to use a space heater, make sure it is always at least two feet away from furniture, drapes, rugs, or other flammable objects. Try a space heater with a timer, just in case you might dose off, or forget to turn it off before walking away.
Avoid using electric blankets at night, since it can be difficult to wake up in time to adjust settings if you get too warm. Instead, try using more than one blanket. Look for warming wool or acrylic blends.
3. Wear layers.
One of the best tricks for staying warm during colder months is to wear several layers of clothing. The first layer should stay closer to the body and wick away moisture. Among favorite options are t-shirts and camis in polyester blends, merino wool or silk. Outer layers shouldn’t be tight, to allow air to circulate. Look for polyester and cotton blend sweatshirts, thick flannel or wool sweaters. To keep your lower body warm, wear leggings or longjohns under your regular pants, or look jeans or pants that have a lining.
If your clothing gets wet in the snow or rain, change out of damp layers immediately, as wet clothing cools faster and will not dry quickly on its own.
4. Choose a great jacket for going outdoors.
When looking for a perfect winter jacket, pay attention to the length. Heat will take slower to escape from a coat that falls to mid-thigh or lower. However, if you mostly drive, a shorter jacket will be easier to wear in the car. Bulk is not always a good indicator of warmth. Instead, look for high quality insulation, down or synthetic, and a waterproof shell. Consider asking your local sports store staff for advice on insulated, seam-sealed jackets that have a hood, close-fitting cuffs and a quality zipper. Today, many places can schedule a personal try-on session in the store to help you decide.
Since most of the heat escapes though the head, don’t neglect to wear a hat even when planning to be outside for just a few minutes. Keep your neck and hands warm with a scarf and gloves (drivers can get non-slip ones).
5. Choose the right boots.
As people get older, they begin to have trouble regulating temperatures in their hands and feet. For this reason, keeping feet dry is critical. Some sheepskin boots look cozy when worn in mild weather, but if you anticipate any rain, look for boots with a water-repellent finish. You may see brands use words like “waterproof”, “water-resistant” or “weatherproof”, but what do they mean? Waterproof footwear will completely repel water, but may not offer enough ventilation. Water-resistant or weatherproof shoes will repel water and allow moisture to escape, but won’t stay dry inside if completely soaked. They may not be great for dog walks in pouring rain, but do quite well in snowy conditions. Also, look for non-slip soles, as many great-looking winter styles don’t offer this useful feature.
6. Eat well and exercise.
Eating complete and nutritious foods in the colder months can help regulate your body temperature and maintain higher energy levels. Try a few new recipes for hearty soups, roasted vegetables or casseroles. For those who are unable or may not want to cook, local food delivery services and Meals on Wheels programs can provide regular nutritious food. Try one of these recipes: chicken cacciatore, ginger butternut squash soup, or Moroccan Chicken Vegetable soup.
Avoid drinking alcohol before going, or when, outside. It makes you feel warm but it draws heat away from your vital organs.
Exercising is another way to keep your appetite and energy up. A wide range of online activities, from chair yoga to dance cardio, are available for free or for a fee, including from local Westchester-based providers.
If you are planning to spend plenty of time outdoors this winter, keep in mind these typical hypothermia symptoms: confusion, shaking, shivering, slowed breathing, or slurred words. Use a blanket to get warm and adjust the indoor temperature, if you are indoors. Never rub your hands or feet to get warmer, take a hot bath or shower, or drink alcohol. Instead, take your temperature, and if it is 96 degrees or below, call 911 or your local emergency number.
Following these suggestions will help you and your loved ones keep safe and warm in tricky Northeast weather this season!