Winter is a dangerous time for the elderly. This is because when the temperature drops and the cold wind blows, the risk of cold diseases and falls increases. In particular, the elderly who suffer from chronic diseases should be careful because complications can occur if they are suddenly exposed to cold air.
Winter is a particularly dangerous time for the elderly｜Source: Clip Art Korea
“Winter season, 3 threats to the elderly”
1. Cold disease
Elderly people have a weaker ability to cope with the cold than general adults. Aging also affects the ability to maintain body temperature. As we age, the function of the autonomic nervous system or blood vessel defense mechanism declines, and blood vessels constrict when it’s cold. This reduces heat loss and reduces compensatory responses such as shivering and raising body temperature. That is why the elderly are susceptible to cold diseases.
A cold disease refers to a condition where the body’s core temperature falls below 35 degrees. These include hypothermia and frostbite, and the main symptoms include fatigue, body tremors, confusion, and lethargy. Cold disease is a condition that can lead to death due to amputation or reduced function of vital organs. Therefore, in case of cold illness, you should seek medical attention immediately after taking emergency measures.
2. Falling accidents
The elderly are at high risk of falling due to weak muscle strength and low joint flexibility. In particular, in winter, the risk of accidents is high as the streets become slippery, such as icy roads and marbles wet with snow, so care is needed. One of the reasons to be careful about falls in winter is that when the temperature is low, muscles contract, are tense, and the joints become less flexible, which increases the risk of muscle and joint damage compared to other seasons.
Mild symptoms after a fall will improve naturally over time, but in the case of a broken wrist or head trauma, serious complications can occur, requiring prompt treatment. Especially if you have a hip fracture, you should go to hospital immediately. This is because a hip fracture is a dangerous condition with a 70% risk of death within two years if not treated properly. The reason why hip fractures are so fatal is that when a hip fracture occurs, you have to lie down for a long time, which reduces metabolic function and increases the risk of complications such as pressure ulcers, stroke and pneumonia.
3. Cardiovascular disease
Elderly people suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure should pay more attention to health care in winter. This is because sudden exposure to cold air constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure, which increases the risk of worsening underlying diseases or causing complications.
In particular, myocardial infarction and stroke occur frequently, and these two diseases are fatal diseases that can lead to death if the optimal time (golden time) for appropriate treatment is missed. Generally, the golden time for myocardial infarction is within 2 hours, and the golden time for stroke is within 3 hours.
“Don’t go out if it’s cold, warm your hands and head when you go out”
In addition, there is a high risk of respiratory diseases due to dry and cold air in winter, and immunity is lowered and viruses are relatively more common, making it easy to be exposed to infectious diseases. Therefore, it is recommended that the elderly refrain from going out in cold weather when the temperature is above minus 10 degrees Celsius.
When going out, it’s good to warm up before leaving the house. This is to prevent falls by loosening stiff muscles and joints. In addition, it is better to choose outerwear that has a function to block the wind, and you should pay attention to keep your hands and head warm by wearing gloves and a hat.
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