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Older Adults at Particular Risk as Temperature Plummets

Hypothermia is a potentially life-threatening condition that happens when body temperature gets very low. In older adults, a body temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit or lower could lead to a heart attack, liver damage, and other serious health problems.

Older adults are at increased risk, even when staying indoors, because they can lose body heat faster, and physical changes due to aging can make it harder for the person to be aware of getting cold. Certain medications and health concerns, like thyroid problems, can further increase a person's risk for hypothermia. 

Call 9-1-1 if you think someone has the warning signs of hypothermia.

Early Signs of Hypothermia

  • Cold feet and hands
  • Puffy or swollen face
  • Pale skin
  • Shivering (in some cases the person with hypothermia does not shiver)
  • Slower than normal speech or slurring words
  • Acting sleepy
  • Being angry or confused

Later Signs of Hypothermia

  • Moving slowly, trouble walking, or being clumsy
  • Stiff and jerky arm or leg movements
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Blacking out or losing consciousness

Be sure to consult your doctor to see if your medications or health concerns put you at increased risk for hypothermia. If you or someone you know is having difficulty paying heating bills, contact the National Energy Assistance Referral Service at 1-866-674-6327 (TTY 1-866-367-6228). Your local senior center may have additional information about programs to help with heating bills and weatherizing a home.

This information is intended for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for personalized assistance.