Baby, It’s Cold Outside! When the temperature drops, older adults run a higher risk of health problems and injuries related to the weather, including hypothermia, frostbite, and falls in ice and snow. Like most things in life, it is better to be prepared. Here are a few precautions everyone should take, especially older adults, this time of year, offered by


Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops to a dangerous level. Your body temperature can drop when you are out in the cold for an extended time because it begins to lose heat quickly. Older adults are at an increased risk of hypothermia due to changes that happen to your body with aging.

Warning signs

  • Cold skin that is pale or ashy
  • Feeling very tired, confused and sleepy
  • Feeling weak
  • Problems walking
  • Slowed breathing or heart rate
  • Shivering is not a reliable warning sign because older people tend to shiver less or not at all when their body temperature drops

Precautions to take

Stay indoors (or don’t stay outside for very long).

  • Keep indoor temperature at 65 degrees or warmer.
  • Stay dry because wet clothing chills your body more quickly.
  • Dress Smart – protect your lungs from cold air. – Layer up! Wearing 2 or 3 thinner layers of loose-fitting clothing is warmer than a single layer of thick clothing. Think about getting your thermals! – Essential winter wears: hats, gloves or preferably mittens, winter coat, boots, and a scarf to cover your mouth and nose.

Call 911 if you think you or someone else is experiencing hypothermia.


Frostbite occurs when your body experiences damage to the skin that can go all the way down to the bone. Not surprisingly, extreme cold can cause frostbite. It is most likely to occur on body parts farthest away from your heart. Common places include your nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes. In severe cases, frostbite can result in loss of limbs. People with heart disease and other circulation problems are at a higher risk.

Warning Signs

  • Skin that’s white or ashy or grayish-yellow
  • Skin feels hard or waxy
  • Numbness

Precautions to take

  • Cover up! All parts of your body should be covered when you go out in the cold.
  • If skin turns red or dark or starts hurting, get inside right away.

If frostbite has happened: run the affected area under warm (not hot) water.

Call for medical help if you think you or someone else has frostbite.


Injury while shoveling snow is one of the evils of winter. Just make sure that if you choose to shovel, you take some precautions. Remember, when it’s cold outside, your heart works double time to keep you warm.

Strenuous activities like shoveling snow may put too much strain on your heart, especially if you have heart disease. Shoveling can also be dangerous if you have problems with balance or have “thin bones” (osteoporosis).

Precautions to take

Ask your healthcare provider whether shoveling or other work in the snow is safe for you.