County Human Services


Cold Weather Safety Tips

Everyone is sensitive to extremes in weather, but with age, the body may become less able to adjust to long exposure to very cold temperatures.

In cold weather some older people are at risk for hypothermia, a drop in internal body temperature that can be fatal if not detected and treated.  This occurs when exposure to cold causes a person's body to lose heat faster than it can be replaced.

Hypothermia can be a problem for older people, who often have other illnesses or take medications that can interfere with the body's ability to regulate its temperature.  Be alert to this risk if you or someone you know:

  • HAS INSUFFICIENT HEAT AT HOME due to substandard housing conditions, poor insulation, lack of money to pay for fuel, etc.
  • LIVES ALONE and may be exposed to cold without others noticing.
  • IS PHYSICALLY INACTIVE due to illness or disability.
  • EATS POORLY - few hot, balanced meals for good nutrition.
  • TAKES MEDICATION that may reduce the body's ability to protect itself against cold.
  • REACTS ABNORMALLY TO COLD - for example, does not shiver when cold. (Shivering is the body's way of trying to stay warm.)
  • ACTS LIKE A "DIFFERENT PERSON" - this could be the result of not being warm enough.

If you know an older person, even one living with another older person, make contact either by phone or in person.  Some questions to ask them:

  • How are you keeping warm?
  • Do you have layers of clothing on?
  • Do you have enough blankets?
  • Have you been shivering?
  • When have you eaten last?

These questions may seem odd to those who are not affected by extreme cold or those who can easily do something to rectify their situation, buy many older people are house bound and don't have the options other people do.

If you know someone who may be in a high risk situation, call YCAAA at 717-771-9610 or 1-800-632-9073.