Aging:Home Care/Health:Cold Related Illness

Department Info

Cold Related Illness

Office For The Aging
Todd N. Tancredi, Director



  Hypothermia and Seniors ~ Staying Warm During Cold Winter Months (.pdf)


As we get older, our body's ability to maintain a normal internal body temperature often decreases. Many times we can be relatively insensitive to moderately cold conditions, which can be dangerous.

Cold Related Illnesses: Prevention and Treatment


Hypothermia is a drop in body temperature to below 96 degrees. Hypothermia occurs when exposure to cold causes a person's body to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Illnesses or health problems such as heart, circulatory or thyroid diseases; diabetes; arthritis; and other conditions can contribute to a person's risk. Some medications can also lower the body's resistance to the cold. Consuming alcoholic beverages before going into the cold can draw heat away from the body's vital organs.

Warning Signs

  • Difficulty walking
  • Confused thinking
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Trembling on one side of the body
  • Stumbling
  • Shivering
  • Weak pulse
  • Bloated face
  • Drowsiness
  • Slowed reactions


Because the head is the body's major point of heat loss, wear a hat. Wear several layers of clothes indoors and out. A scarf will help keep your ears warm; they are especially prone to frostbite. Wear gloves to protect your hands.

Eat nutritious, high energy foods. Eat at least one hot meal a day. Exercise regularly to stimulate heat production in your muscles. Have a neighbor or family member check on you daily during the winter.

First Aid

If someone is suffering from hypothermia, the first thing to do is to maintain the victim's body heat by wrapping them in warm blankets. If they have been outside, remove all wet clothing. Place heat packs, electric heating pads, hot water bottles, or even another person in the blankets with the victim. (Do not warm the victim too quickly).

If the victim is conscious, give them warm liquids to drink and try to keep them awake. Get them to a medical facility as soon as possible.

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Todd N. Tancredi,Director Todd N. Tancredi
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