Cold weather precautions for the elderly

Press Release

MONTGOMERY, AL – This frigid cold winter weather can be especially dangerous for older citizens and the Alabama Department of Senior Services is encouraging older citizens to take necessary precautions.

Below are some safety tips that you may find helpful in preparing for the cold.  As you prepare, Commissioner Irene Collins encourages you to contact your elderly neighbors, friends and family members to check on them.

Much like high blood pressure, hypothermia can be called a "silent killer" in the sense that many of its victims are not aware of the threat. In the case of hypothermia, elderly persons may not be aware they are becoming cold as readily as younger people, and their bodies may not adjust to changes in temperature.

Hypothermia (literally "low-heat") is a condition marked by an abnormally low internal body temperature. It develops when body heat is lost to a cool or cold environment faster than it can be replaced. Temperatures do not have to be below freezing for hypothermia to occur, especially in vulnerable individuals. Many older adults can develop a low body temperature after exposure to conditions of mild cold, which would only produce discomfort in younger people.

If you believe someone may be a victim of hypothermia, call an ambulance or rescue squad immediately. Hypothermia is a dangerous, complicated medical problem and the victim needs professional attention.


• Stay inside as much as possible. If you have to go out cover all exposed areas.

Wear warm, non-skid footwear and dress in layers. Wear a hat and gloves and cover your mouth to avoid getting cold air in your lungs.

• Keep a list of emergency phone numbers next to your phone.

• Check your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to be sure they are in working order.

• If you are using a space heater keep it at least 3 feet from furniture and draperies.  Heaters that use liquid fuel, if faulty, may cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

• Be sure to check with a doctor before shoveling snow if you have heart problems and/or don't exercise regularly.

• Replace rubber tips on canes, walkers, and crutches. Home health care stores sell "ice picks" that fit on the ends of canes and walkers to provide extra traction.

• Understand your prescription drugs. Be aware that some medicines make people more susceptible to cold. Ask your doctor if you should be taking extra precautions.

• Have chimneys and flues checked before using them.

• Wrap inside pipes with warm rags to keep them from freezing.

• Keep your water dripping so pipes do not freeze.  If they are already frozen, keeping the faucet on will allow the water to escape once it begins to melt so the pipes will not bust.

• Make sure to have extra food, blankets and water available along with a flashlight and extra batteries.

• Have at least a two-week supply of medicine and non-perishable food items in case of a power outage.

For more information contact your local Area Agency on Aging at 1-800-AGE-LINE.

Source: Alabama Department of Senior Services