We are having an extremely cold Winter here in the Washington, DC suburbs, and throughout the USA. Temperatures are colder than usual, and the wind is blowing harder. So what are you doing to cope with this unusually inclement weather?
The number one risk to Seniors in Winter is falling — slipping on the ice outside, or inside on a floor wet from your shoes. Falling is the number one reason for Seniors going to the Emergency Room — often with a damaged hip as a result of that fall. I’ve preached in these pages in the past about preparing for and preventing falls. Falls normally result from “Slipping or Tripping”. In the winter, “slipping” is the major culprit.
But don’t we have to get the paper in the morning, or get to the car if we are still commuting, or even go out and shovel snow? Some kinds of boots will provide good outside traction. I have a pair of slip on “cleats” for going outside in icy conditions. You can pick up a pair of YAK-TRAX Pro traction cleats at Amazon.com for around $20. That’s not an endorsement or sales pitch. It just happens to be the brand I have. They work, but don’t wear them inside. They can scratch the floor or damage a rug or carpet. They’re easy to slip on and off over regular shoes.
Hypothermia is an additional risk of cold weather. Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a pretty good drop from your normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees. Hypothermia can result in slowed reaction time, sleepiness and slurred speech. I’m sure we’ve all heard of people who have just laid down in the snow, fallen asleep and died. Yes it can happen to you if you don’t take precautions. So dress in layers and wear a hat and gloves. They trap heat and provide insulation. You already know that.
Cold weather can cause circulatory problems as well. In the cold, blood vessels constrict. This can cause a problem if you have existing heart problems or high blood pressure. Here, body fat can help. Skinny people with really low body fat are more susceptible to the effects of cold temperatures than those with more body fat. But it’s better to dress warmly rather than eat more.
Do you have arthritis? It can flair up in very cold temperatures, too. We’re told to wear gloves, mittens and warm socks. They will probably help.
Another effect of Winter weather is often abnormally dry skin. Itching and flaking is a common symptom. Even men use a moisturizer to help moisten dry skin.
There are social effects of Winter weather too. Social Isolation and “Winter Depression” are more prevalent among Seniors. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a Psychological Buzzword used commonly to describe it. It’s not just old people; it can affect anyone. Psychologists tell us to communicate with others more during the Winter and to get out and see other people as often as possible. Sunlight helps, too.
We’ve all been through a lot of Winters, some with really cold temperatures and others more moderate. Some of us are from Minnesota and others are from Florida (It’s cold there now, too). It doesn’t matter where you’re from, it sometimes helps to have a bit of reinforcement of what we already know, wherever we are now.
Stay warm and enjoy the Winter. Thank you for reading.