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January 8, 2014

Cold to the bone

PLATTSBURGH — John Richard White walked gingerly in the roadway along South Catherine Street.

Many areas of the sidewalk were uncleared or remained too treacherous for him, even with the assistance of his cane.

“It’s wicked,” said White, 63, of the weather and road conditions.

He was returning from paying his rent for his Plattsburgh residence, which he shares with his wife, Linda, who has a disability.

“There’s no way I could bring my wife out here in this,” White said.

LESS BODY HEAT

As the polar vortex’s distortion snaps temps back into the frigid range, common sense can go a long way in keeping one warm and healthy.

“Older people may be at risk for being affected by cold temperatures because their body’s response to cold can be diminished by certain illnesses, such as diabetes and some medicines,” according to Laurie Williams, coordinator for Health Education at the Clinton County Health Department.

“In addition, older adults may be less active and therefore generate less body heat. This can increase an older person’s risk for developing hypothermia.”

ADVICE FROM EXPERTS

To avoid being harmed by hypothermia, here is some practical advice for the elderly from the National Institutes for Health:

▶ Wear several layers of loose clothing when it is cold. The layers will trap warm air between them. Tight clothing can keep blood from flowing freely and lead to loss of body heat.

▶ Wear a hat, scarf, gloves or mittens and warm clothes when you go outside in cold weather. A significant amount of your body heat can be lost through your head, and hands and feet are the first body parts to get cold.

▶ To keep warm at home, wear long underwear under your clothes, along with socks and slippers. Use a blanket or afghan to keep legs and shoulders warm and wear a hat or cap indoors.

▶ Make sure your home is warm enough. Set your thermostat to at least 68 to 70 degrees. Even mildly cool homes with temperatures from 60 to 65 degrees can trigger hypothermia in older people.

▶ Check with your doctor to see if any medications (prescription or over the counter) you are taking may increase your risk for hypothermia.

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