National Institute on Aging

If you are like most people, you feel cold every now and then

during the winter. What you may not know is that being
really cold can make you very sick.
Hypothermia is what happens when your body temperature
gets very low. For an older person, a body temperature colder
than 95 degrees can cause many health problems, such as a
heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage, or worse.
Being outside in the cold, or even being in a very cold house,
can lead to hypothermia. You can take steps to lower your
chance of getting hypothermia. Sometimes it is hard to tell if a person has hypothermia. Look for clues. Is the house very cold? Is the person not dressed for cold weather? Is the person speaking slower than normal and having trouble keeping his or her balance?
Watch for the signs of hypothermia in yourself, too. You might become confused if your body temperature gets very low. Talk to your family and friends about the warning signs so they can look out for you.

Warning Signs of Hypothermia

  • cold feet and hands
  • puffy or swollen face
  • pale skin
  • shivering (in some cases the person with hypothermia does not shiver)
  • slower than normal speech or slurring words
  • acting sleepy
  • being angry or confused

Later signs of hypothermia

  • moving slowly, trouble walking, or being clumsy
  • stiff and jerky arm or leg movements
  • slow heartbeat
  • slow, shallow breathing
  • blacking out or losing consciousness
  • call 9-1-1 if you find someone you believe may be suffering from hypothermia

Next Steps

  • remove any wet clothes, hats, gloves, shoes and socks
  • cover with warm dry clothes and blankets
  • move to a warm dry place as soon as possible
  • begin rewarming with extra clothing and warm blankets; offer warm liquids – not coffee

December 2015

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