Baby, It's Cold Outside: How to Stay Safe This Winter

Baby, It's Cold Outside: How to Stay Safe This Winter

Dec 05 2014
Winter storms and frigid weather can usher in health hazards for seniors. Cold-related injuries--from frostbite to falls on wet or slippery surfaces--are particularly harmful to the elderly.

When it's time for Old Man Winter's annual appearance, follow these tips to help get through those icy times and stay safe this winter.

Slipping and Falling Hazards


Slippery and snowy steps, driveways and porches can be difficult for seniors to navigate.

Solution: Keep sidewalks and driveways well shoveled; apply rock salt or sand to create traction on wet or icy patches. If there is a lot of snow, seek help before shoveling yourself. Shoveling snow is a very strenuous activity and could lead to injury or heart attack. Look to friends and neighbors to help shovel--or hire a contractor to plow or shovel after a storm. When traveling outside, wear waterproof boots with non-slip rubber soles to make walking on slippery surfaces easier and safer.

Frigid Temperatures


Seniors, with less efficient circulatory systems than younger adults, are at greater risk of cold-related health problems.

Solution: Check the weather report before leaving home and dress in layers to avoid losing body heat. Wearing a hat with ear flaps and mittens (which are warmer than gloves since they allow the fingers to touch) or insulated gloves will protect against frostbitten ears and fingers. Thick wool or synthetic socks and waterproof, insulated boots (with good treads) will protect feet from the cold.

Sun Glare


Sunlight reflects off white snow, causing glare that can make it difficult to see. This could lead to accidents while driving or falls while walking.

Solution: Wear sunglasses to ward off glare--and always make sure they filter out both long-wave (UVA) and short-wave (UVB) ultraviolet rays. Overexposure to UV rays can lead to cataracts of the eye. In addition, sun is damaging to skin, even in winter. Apply an SPF 15 sunscreen before engaging in outdoor activities during the winter.

Being Alone During Storms


Many seniors are faced with braving winter storms alone, which can be frightening or even life-threatening in worst-case scenarios.

Solution: Do your utmost to tell people you will be in your home during the storm so they know where to reach you in case the power goes out. Create a safety net: Talk with other seniors, friends and neighbors to arrange phone calls before, during and after the storm. Contact your local town hall and senior center to be placed on a call or check-in list. If the power shuts off, stay indoors.

Medication Side Effects


Medications can alter a person's body temperature.

Solution: Understand your prescription drugs. If your meds can alter your body temperature, keep a thermometer nearby and check your temperature regularly. If you feel abnormal or "out of it," contact a doctor immediately.

The Flu


People over 65 are considered to be at high risk for complications from the flu, which can be fatal, according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention.

Solution: Get your flu shot. Most pharmacies have a walk-in clinic for a flu shot, so you don't have to worry about making a doctor's appointment if you don't want to. It's fast, easy and can save your life.

Dangers with Appliances and Utilities


Appliances like space heaters and plumbing need a watchful eye during the winter months.

Solution: Run the water at a trickle overnight when temperatures become freezing to avoid busted pipes. Make sure space heaters are kept several feet from furniture, drapes and other combustible items--and never leave them unattended.

Updated from earlier versions on realtor.com(r) written by Kathleen Ewald.

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