Winter can be a beautiful time of year, however as lovely as it can be, we cannot forget the dangers that can lurk in those long, cold nights. We’ve previously touched on ways you can protect yourself from winter storms, but what about when there isn’t a storm. What if the issue is just the cold itself?
Why the Cold Can be Dangerous
It may just seem uncomfortable but being cold can be sneakily dangerous for you during the winter. The cold can create the perfect environment to make you sick by weakening your immune response and making it easier to spread sickness, and the danger doesn’t just stop there. If your home isn’t heated or insulated properly or your electricity goes out during a winter storm, battling cold temperatures is a constant challenge and threat to your health.
If your home is too cold, you can even become at risk of hypothermia, a condition caused by long exposures to cold temperatures resulting in your body temperature dropping below 95°F. Symptoms can include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, drowsiness, slurred speech, memory loss, and more. Each year, hundreds of people die because of hypothermia, while thousands are hospitalized. It may be more common if you spend extended periods of time outside, but hypothermia can happen indoors, too.
Hypothermia isn’t the only winter danger that comes from the cold.
Of course, hypothermia isn’t the only winter danger that comes from the cold. While not specifically indoors, you should watch for slick patches on walkways directly around the house when the weather drops below freezing. Even garages can develop icy spots in the winter. Falls can be extremely dangerous, especially for seniors, leading to injuries or death.
Finally, in the process of keeping your house warm, you may light a fire. After all, a fire heats your home and adds a certain ambiance that’s tough to beat. But with fires in the fireplace come the risk of a house fire if you aren’t careful. Fires used for heating are the second leading cause of hours fires and fire injuries in the United States.
Why Seniors are Uniquely At-Risk
Zeroing in on hypothermia for a bit, it’s important to note that seniors are at an increased risk of developing hypothermia and the health emergencies that come with it. As we age, it becomes more difficult to maintain your internal body temperature. There are a number of factors that can contribute to this, ranging from the thinning of a layer of fat underneath the skin to changes to the body’s metabolic rate that makes it more difficult to stay warm. This alone can play a part in increasing the risk that healthy seniors face from hypothermia.
Anemia, diabetes, and certain thyroid conditions can make it difficult to keep a consistent body temperature when faced with external stimuli like the cold.
Additionally, risk can grow if you have a condition or take a medication that can make it harder to maintain your body temperature. Anemia, diabetes, and certain thyroid conditions can make it difficult to keep a consistent body temperature when faced with external stimuli like the cold. Furthermore, there are medications for some common conditions that lead to increased cold sensitivity like narcotic pain medications, antidepressants, or beta-blockers, among others. If you’re consistently feeling cold, talk to your doctor to see if any medications you are on may be the cause.
Avoid the Risks of the Cold
Knowing what’s at risk, protecting yourself becomes critical. Of course, bundling up when you’re outside is smart, but what about in the house? As long as you have a modern heating system in your home, keeping your home at a safe temperature is much more manageable. According to the World Health Organization, the standard temperature of homes during the winter should be around 64°F at a minimum for most adults, though 68°F is preferable for households with the very old or very young.
Dressing warmly, having blankets for when you need them, and safely burning a fire are all ways you can preemptively stave off cold environments.
You can also make sure your house is staying warm by sealing in the heat so that you aren’t losing it to small cracks in walls, windows, or doors. Also, dressing warmly around the home, having blankets for when you need them, and safely burning a fire in your fireplace are all ways you can preemptively stave off cold environments.
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Winter can be a fun, festive, and beautiful time of year, but with the winter chill comes the risks that can place many of us in danger. Protecting yourself from the cold in your home gives you a place to warm up and be safe so that you can enjoy the winter months to their fullest!