The winter can be a stunningly beautiful time of year – but the cold, snow, and ice can bring with them a unique set of challenges – especially for senior citizens, small children, and anyone suffering from issues that decrease mobility.
It’s a common winter chore – clearing the snow from your sidewalk, driveway, etc. Did you know that, in the cold weather, your heart is already working overtime to help keep you warm? It’s true! Physical activity that increases your heart rate (like shoveling snow) can add to the burden on your heart, so you should discuss with your doctor whether your heart is healthy enough for outdoor activities like shoveling in the winter. If you are shoveling, take frequent breaks. Don’t push yourself too hard, and take it especially easy if the temperature is really low.
Shoveling can also be dangerous if you have any problems with balance, osteoporosis, or conditions that can make you more prone to falling – or that make falls more dangerous.
Use common sense, don’t push yourself, and talk to your doctor about how you can navigate winter chores in the safest way possible.
In cold weather, your body can lose heat quickly – leading to a dangerous drop in body temperature. Older adults tend to produce less body heat than younger people do, making it harder to regulate body temperature, so it is important to stay aware of conditions beyond just “feeling cold”
Warning signs of hypothermia can include shivering (although less so in older people, so don’t rely on this symptom alone!); cold skin that appears pale or ashy; feeling weak, tired, confused, and sleepy; trouble walking or maintaining balance; and slowed breathing or heart rate. If you think someone is suffering from hypothermia, call 911.
When it’s extremely cold outside, stay indoors as much as possible, and keep your indoor temperature above 65 degrees. If you have to go outside, limit your time and exposure to the elements. Staying dry is also important – wet clothing will chill your body quickly! Dress in layers, as well – wearing two or three thinner layers of loose-fitting clothing is warmer (and often, more comfortable) than wearing a single, heavy sweater. A scarf can be used to cover your mouth and nose, as well, to help protect your lungs from the cold air.
Slips & Falls
The winter brings icy and snowy conditions on a regular basis, making it much easier to unintentionally slop and fall. While waiting for spring sunshine, there are a few things you can do to make getting around in the winter a little easier. For example, wearing proper footwear – boots that have non-skid soles, and that are designed for navigating the wintery conditions can make getting around much easier! Pay attention to your surroundings – watch for sidewalks and parking lots that are dry and that have been cleared. Also be aware that, in the frigid temperatures of winter, what looks like “wet” is likely “ice” and tread carefully. If you use a cane for mobility and balance, replace the rubber tip before it has been worn smooth to retain grip.
Stay safe this winter!
The Mitchell Home Medical Team