Blog Post

Tips to help avoid cold stress

Follow these tips to avoid cold stress. (Thinkstock)

The elderly population is disproportionately affected by hypothermia (commonly known as cold stress), caused by excessive body heat loss and exposure to cold. Those who don’t dress warmly enough; live in a cold room or house; lack shelter from the snow, rain, wind, and water; eat poorly and take certain prescription medications* are at risk for cold stress. Cold stress can happen indoors, even at temperatures as mild as 60°- 70°F. People can help protect themselves by following some simple guidelines, according to Sharon Congleton, R.N., B.S.N., health promotion nurse supervisor at Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA).

  • Stay warm and dry, indoors and outdoors
  • Avoid exposure to snow, wind, rain and water/dampness
  • Dress warmly
    • Wear loose layers of clothing, especially woolens
    • Cover head and neck (wear a hat and scarf)
    • Wear gloves or mittens
    • Change socks and long underwear if they become damp or wet
    • Wear warm shoes and socks
  • Keep skin and clothing dry to lessen the chance of frostbite
  • Eat nutritious meals on a regular basis, especially a hot meal
  • Drink a lot of fluids

What To Do in an Emergency

  • DO call 9-1-1 for medical assistance
  • DO cover head and neck
  • DO wrap in blankets, towels, extra clothes, or newspaper
  • DO handle the person gently
  • DO warm the person gradually
  • DO take off wet clothes and provide warm, dry clothing

What Not To Do in an Emergency:

  • DO NOT give hot drinks or hot food
  • DO NOT give alcohol or medications
  • DO NOT bathe or shower
  • DO NOT rub or massage arms or legs

If taking medication for high blood pressure, nervousness, depression, poor circulation or sleeplessness, talk about hypothermia/cold stress with your doctor.

Call the PCA Helpline at 215-765-9040 weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., for information on programs that offer assistance.