How to Protect Seniors From Frostbite

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It’s been a bone-chilling winter here in the Midwest, with average temperatures well below zero. Extreme cold can pose serious threats, especially for seniors who account for more than half of cold-related injuries like frostbite. Take a look at our tips on how to keep your loved ones protected this winter season.

Frostbite is an injury caused by the freezing of the skin and underlying tissues, usually to extremities like the fingers, toes, ears and nose. Symptoms include tingling, numbness, red or whitened skin and blistering. Unfortunately, older adults are more susceptible to getting frostbite because they have a harder time producing and retaining body heat. Seniors are also more likely to have medical conditions that affect the ability to feel or respond to cold, such as diabetes and poor circulation.

Fortunately, frostbite can be prevented with appropriate precautions. By following these tips, you can help keep your senior parents and friends safe and warm.

Limit their time outdoors in cold, wet or windy weather.
Pay attention to weather forecasts and wind chill readings during the winter months and avoid venturing out in potentially dangerous weather. Exposed skin can develop frostbite in a matter of minutes in very cold and windy weather. If possible, help run their errands during extreme cold to keep them safe and warm inside; offer to pick up medical prescriptions, groceries or home supplies.

Keep them dressed in several layers of loose, warm clothing.
Proper clothing is key to preventing cold-related injuries. Make sure your loved ones are bundled in layers of loose, warm clothing – air trapped between the layers acts as insulation against the cold. Don’t forget about hats or headbands, mittens and socks.

Be sure they eat well-balanced meals and are hydrated.
Ensure that your loved one has had a healthy meal and plenty of water before going out in the cold – it will help keep them warm. And if they do become cold, drinking warm, sweet beverages, such as hot chocolate, will help warm them up. 

Watch for the symptoms.
Early signs of frostbite include red or pale skin, prickling and numbness. If your senior parent or friend is experiencing these symptoms, immediately get them out of the cold and into a warm environment. Change out of cold clothing and immerse the affected area in warm water. Contact a healthcare professional for further instruction.

Vista Prairie Communities wishes you and your loved ones a warm and safe winter. If you would like more information on frostbite, check out this guide from Mayo Clinic.

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