Hypothermia occurs when an individual’s body is unable to produce heat that has been lost to the cold surroundings. This can happen when the body temperature of the individual drops to about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia can lead to an onset of health problems such as heart attacks, liver damage and kidney problems. Severe cases of hypothermia require immediate medical help as it can turn into a life-threatening situation for the patient.
Hypothermia can occur due to:
- the body’s inability to perceive changes in the temperature
- a lower metabolic rate
- pre-existing chronic medical conditions such as diabetes
- a decrease in blood vessel constriction, which leads to a reduction in shivering
- certain medications
- confusion (paradoxical undressing)
If your loved one experiences hypothermia, what should you do? In this article, we share with you how you can deal with hypothermia in the elderly.
How to Deal with Hypothermia in the Elderly
If your loved one has hypothermia, the very first thing to do is to call 911 for immediate medical attention. After calling 911, there are also other measures you can take for your loved ones while waiting for the ambulance to arrive:
- Limit their body movements and be gentle. Do not try to rub or massage them.
- If the situation allows, move your loved ones slowly away from the cold area. If you are not able to move their body, you can keep them in a horizontal position and shield them from the cold. Place a blanket or coat underneath them to insulate their bodies from the cold ground. Always remain gentle when placing such items underneath your loved ones. You can also opt to keep them warm using your own body heat by laying down next to them.
- Wrap your loved ones with coats or blankets. Ensure their head is also covered. Use a hat or scarf to cover any exposed parts. Leave their noses and mouths uncovered for them to breathe.
- If they are wearing wet clothing, remove their clothes where possible. In some cases, you may have to cut their clothes to facilitate the removal process.
- If they are lying unconscious, you should monitor their breathing. If there is no breathing, commence CPR immediately if you are trained to administer it.
- If your loved one is conscious and is able to swallow foods, give them a warm beverage. Ensure that the drink does not contain alcohol, and is not a caffeinated beverage like tea or coffee.
- Use dry, warm compresses to help bring up their body temperatures. However, apply them to the neck, chest, or groin areas only.
Having our elderly loved ones get lost in a cold area can be a frightening incident. Although there are ways you can help your loved ones deal with hypothermia, there are certain circumstances where hypothermia can be life-threatening. As such, always ensure your loved ones are wearing proper winter clothing that can protect them from the cold. If your loved ones are living on their own during winter, ensure that their thermostats are working, and check in with them every now and then.