Babies, seniors can get hypothermia indoors

Jan. 24, 2013 at 11:03 PM
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ALBANY, N.Y., Jan. 24 (UPI) -- For infants and seniors, hypothermia can also occur indoors, so the thermostat should be set no lower than 68 degrees, a New York health official says.

Dr. Nirav R. Shah, New York state health commissioner, said everyone should take precautions against extreme cold as freezing temperatures continue.

Hypothermia is the general cooling of the whole body over time and is most common when a person's core body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia is dangerous and can be fatal if not detected immediately and treated properly, Shah said.

Those most at risk are people age 65 and older, infants, and those who work or play outdoors. The warning signs of hypothermia in adults are shivering, confusion, memory loss, drowsiness, exhaustion, slurred speech, puffy face, shallow breathing, a slow heartbeat and weak pulse. Infants who are suffering from hypothermia may appear to have very low energy and bright red, cold skin, Shah said.

Eating well-balanced meals will help the elderly stay warmer. However, do not drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages -- they cause the body to lose heat more rapidly. Instead, drink warm, sweet beverages or broth to help maintain body temperature.

When outside, take extra precautions to reduce the risk of hypothermia and frostbite. In high wind conditions, cold weather-related health problems are much more likely. Be sure the outer layer of clothing is tightly woven to reduce body-heat loss caused by wind, Shah said

"If you will be spending time outside, do not ignore shivering -- it is an important first sign that the body is losing heat and a signal to quickly return indoors," Shah said in a statement.

"Even otherwise-healthy adults should remember that their bodies are already working overtime just to stay warm and dress appropriately and work slowly when doing heavy outdoor chores."

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