Winter safety is essential for everyone, especially senior citizens. According to the CDC, winter’s cold weather kills twice as many people as summer heat. Here’s what you need to know to stay healthy and safe until spring, and keep your loved ones protected.
Keep Warm Inside and Out
You might think you need to be outside in the elements to freeze to death or get frostbite, but these conditions can set in even when you feel safe indoors. Hypothermia can set in at temperatures of 50 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the weather conditions. Poor nutrition and certain medicines can also increase risk for hypothermia. Frostbite can only occur at freezing temperatures, but extremities like hands, feet, and the face and ears are very vulnerable to frostbite in older people.
The CDC recommends dressing in at least three layers to keep warm and protected. When outside, wear waterproof shoes, mittens, hats, and scarves to protect your extremities. At home, make sure to keep the heat on and keep a backup heat source, like a space heater, available as well.
Plan for Snow Removal
Another winter safety tip for retirees and seniors is to let someone else handle the snow shovel this year! Did you know 12,000 people a year are injured and 100 die as a result of shoveling snow? Between the risk to slip and fall, the exposure to the cold, the strain on the shoulders and back, and the potential for heart attack, this is actually one of the most dangerous household tasks for the elderly. In fact, Harvard Medical School has come out to say that those age 50 or older should just avoid shoveling snow altogether if they can do so.
Avoid Icy Conditions
Other than shoveling the driveway, there are many other icy conditions to be aware of as both a driver and a pedestrian. You should certainly avoid driving when conditions are bad, especially if your local weather advisories or travel advisories direct you to do so. This isn’t just due to the hazards of driving, but also other drivers, and the risk of cold or freezing temperatures in the car.
If you have to go out walking in the cold, remember to go slowly and wear appropriate shoes or boots with good traction. Your old worn sneakers may not prevent you from falling on ice! Make sure to wear gloves so you can keep your hands out of your pockets for balance.
Monitor Fire Hazards
With cold weather, fire and carbon monoxide risks also increase. Space heaters, fireplaces, ovens, and even holiday decorations can all play a role in these risks. But space heaters are the main cause of fatal home fires in the U.S.
When it comes to space heater safety, be sure the heater is not damaged in any way before use. Follow all included instructions and recommendations, and keep the heater a safe distance from flammable objects like curtains or blankets. If you have a fireplace, make sure the chimney is clean and safe to use. Lastly, make sure you have a working smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector to alert you if something goes wrong.
These winter safety tips are tried-and-tested ways to keep safe during bad winter weather. Have a happy and healthy season!
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