Karen McPhail, RN, MSN
Cold Weather Hazards
Winter weather presents many challenges for seniors. Be aware of these issues and be proactive in protecting yourself during the cold winter months!
Be Proactive! Check the daily and 5 day forecast and show good judgment. If inclement weather is expected that could present a hazard for walking, driving, or being outside in general, reschedule appointments and other engagements for another time.
Prevent what you can! Winter-related injuries are a huge issue for seniors! Shoveling snow, walking outside or driving in slippery conditions, can all lead to injuries, strains, fractures, and heart related complications. To avoid a fall or other injury, stay inside and avoid driving on hazardous days. Take small steps when outdoors, wear boots or other warm footwear with a good tread, dress warmly, use a cane or walker, avoid steps or if necessary hold onto railings when going down them. Ensure that you have a snow removal service in place or a friend to assist if needed. Sand or salt paths or necessary walkways before venturing out.
Snow, sleet and rain are not the only issue outdoors however! Cold temperatures can be dangerous for all seniors! However those with chronic respiratory conditions are particularly vulnerable to the cold temperatures and winter air! Those with reactive airways are sensitive to cold air and changes between the warm and cold, which can then result in spasms in the lungs and respiratory difficulties. Cover your mouth and nose with a scarf when outdoors to shield the cold air. Always, limit the amount of time spent outside in the cold winter months to avoid problems. In addition, avoid skin exposure to the cold. Wear a hat, gloves, warm coat, scarf, dress in layers. Most people are aware of heat loss through the head, however, the neck and face can lose heat also thus, putting seniors at risk for hypothermia.
The primary goal is to stay inside for snow, freezing rain, sleet, and extreme cold. Play is safe as the weather will eventually shift and you can resume your regular schedule, especially if you are mindful in taking precautions to avoid a life changing or limiting injury.