Precautions urged as temps drop

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - State officials are encouraging older Alabama residents to take extra precautions because of the frigid cold weather that has gripped the state.

Alabama Department of Senior Services Commissioner Irene Collins encouraged people to keep a close eye on elderly relatives, friends and neighbors. She said the elderly are often more susceptible to hypothermia because they sometimes don't realize they are becoming cold.

She encouraged older Alabama residents to take precautions including dressing in layers and wearing a hat and gloves when they go outside.

She also encouraged anyone using a space heater to keep it at least 3 feet from furniture and draperies.

The signs and symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, dizziness, numbness, weakness, impaired judgment, impaired vision and drowsiness.

Call a health professional and get the victim of hypothermia to medical care as soon as possible if the victim seems confused-- one of the first signs of hypothermia—or if the body temperature does not return to normal.

Until emergency medical help arrives, follow these methods help to maintain warmth:

  • Get the victim out of the wind and rain
  • Remove wet clothing and replace it with dry or wool clothing, if possible. Being wet speeds up hypothermia.
  • Use body heat to warm the victim. Get inside a sleeping bag with the victim or wrap yourself in a blanket with the victim. If several people are with you, have everyone huddle around the victim.
  • If the victim is conscious, have him drink warm fluids such as sweetened tea, broth or juice, eat candy and other quick-energy foods
  • Do not give food or drink if the victim is unconscious.
  • Do not allow the victim to drink alcoholic beverages in any circumstance.
  • Any time a person must be out of doors for several hours in cold weather, the Alabama Department of Public Health recommends the following precautions:
  • Dress warmly in layers of clothing and wear fabric that remains warm even when wet, such as wool.
  • Wear wind- and water-proof clothing.
  • Wear a warm hat and gloves. An unprotected head may lose up to half of the body's total heat production at 40 degrees F.
  • Head for shelter if you get wet or cold.
  • Do not drink alcohol while in the cold. It causes the body to lose heat faster.
  • To prevent hypothermia, an elderly person's living quarters should be heated to at least 65 degrees F., he or she should wear suitable clothing, have plenty of warm blankets available and eat nutritious food.

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