Health Clinician Corner

Winter Safety Awareness



Older adults can lose body heat fast.  When the temperature drops, older adults run a higher risk of health problems and injuries related to the weather, including hypothermia, frostbite, and slip and falls in snow and ice.  Here are a few winter safety tips/reminders for older adults to help prevent common cold weather dangers for seniors.


Hypothermia is what happens when the body temperature gets very low.  For an older person, a body temperature of 95⁰F or lower can cause many health problems, such as a heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage, or worse.  If one’s body temperature dipped below 95 degrees, seek medical assistance immediately.


Frostbite occurs when the body experience damage to the skin that can go all the way down to the bone.  That’s why older adults are advised to wear warm socks, a heavy coat, a warm hat, gloves and a scarf if heading outdoors.  In very cold temperatures, they should cover all exposed skin and use a scarf to cover their mouth.  


Living in a cold house, apartment, or other building can cause hypothermia.   Set the heat to at least 68 to 70 degrees.  Close off rooms that are not used, place a rolled towel in front of doors to keep out drafts.  Dress warmly even when inside homes, and wear long underwear and pajamas when going to sleep.   


Eat a varied diet, nutritional deficits, especially vitamin D deficiency, can be a problem.  It can be associated with health concerns like cognitive decline, depression, osteoporosis, etc.  Try to consume foods that are fortified with Vitamin D, such as milk, grains and seafood options like tuna and salmon.


It is easy to slip and fall in the winter, especially in icy and snowy conditions.   Make sure steps and walkways are clear, be especially careful with wet pavements what could be iced over.  Wear boots with non-skid soles, and replace the cane’s rubber tips before it is worn smooth.  


During the winter months, it is common to use the fireplace or other heating sources, such as natural gas, kerosene, and other fuels.  Ensure all the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning properly.  Reach out to the fire department or a family member to inspect and test the units.  


Keep Warm and stay active!