With millions of people still without power after superstorm Sandy, many may be looking at some very cold nights ahead — which means they may find themselves at risk of hypothermia, or cold stress.
Hypothermia occurs when your internal core body temperature drops to 96 degrees or less. While anyone can experience it, the elderly are at particular risk and can suffer from this in houses even at temperatures in the low 60s. Even more frightening, hypothermia can be deadly if not recognized and treated.
Possible signs that someone is experiencing hypothermia include confusion, sleepiness, slurred speech and/or shivering. People with hypothermia may also have a weak pulse and unsteady movements.
Here are some tips for preventing hypothermia if you don’t have heat in your home:
- First, if you are at increased risk, evacuate to a shelter with heat if at all possible. It’s not worth the risk to brave it out at home.
- If you can’t evacuate, wear multiple layers of loose-fitting clothes. The loose layers will trap warm air between them and help to insulate you and keep you warm.
- Wear long underwear, socks and slippers, and cover up with blankets.
- Wear a hat indoors. We lose a lot of body heat through our heads.
- Move around. The activity will help raise your core temperature.
- When temperatures drop, many people reach for alcohol because they think it warms them up — but it actually drops your temperature. So don’t drink to stave off cold temperatures.
Most importantly, if you develop any of the signs or symptoms of hypothermia, seek help immediately.
Adapted from: http://www.nih.gov/news/health/jan2009/nia-16.htm
For more information and tips from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, click here.