Baby It’s cold outside – Safety tips for seniors, pets and Hoosiers as mercury continues to drop

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Featured, Senior Living

Published on January 13, 2021 with No Comments

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, during the winter.


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. Call 911 if you think you or someone else has hypothermia.

Precautions to take

•        Stay indoors (do not stay outside for exceptionally 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 two or three thinner layers of loose-fitting clothing is warmer than a single layer of thick clothing. Think about getting your thermals!

Essential winter wear: hats, gloves (or preferably mittens), winter coat, boots, and a scarf to cover your mouth and nose.


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.

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

Know the warning signs of frostbite: skin that is white or ashy or grayish yellow; skin that feels hard or waxy; numbness. If you think you or someone else has frostbite, call for medical help immediately.

If frostbite occurs, run the affected area under warm (not hot) water.


It is one of the evils of winter – snow shoveling. If you choose to shovel, take some precautions. Remember, when it is 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).

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


It is easy to slip and fall in the winter, especially in icy and snowy conditions.

Precautions to take

Make sure steps and walkways are clear before you walk. Be especially careful if you see wet pavements that could be iced over.

Clear away snow and salt your walkways at home or hire someone to do it.

Wear boots with non-skid soles – this will prevent you from slipping.

If you use a cane, replace the rubber tip before it is worn smooth.

Consider an ice pick-like attachment that fits onto the end of the cane for additional traction.

Fires and carbon monoxide poisoning

During the winter months, it is common to use the fireplace or other heating sources, such as natural gas, kerosene, and other fuels. Unless fireplaces, wood and gas stoves and gas appliances are properly vented, cleaned, and used, they can leak dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide—a deadly gas that you cannot see or smell. These and other appliances, such as space heaters, can also be fire hazards.

Warning signs 



Nausea or vomiting



Blurred vision

Loss of consciousness

Precautions to take

Call an inspector to have your chimneys and flues inspected – preferred annually.

Open a window (when using a kerosene stove) – just a crack will do.

Place smoke detectors and battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors in strategic places – especially in areas where you use fireplaces, wood stoves, or kerosene heaters.

Make sure space heaters are at least 3 feet away from anything that might catch fire, such as curtains, bedding, and furniture.

Never try to heat your home using a gas stove, charcoal grill, or other stoves not made for home heating.

Accidents while driving

Adults 65 and older are involved in more car crashes per mile driven than those in nearly all other age groups. Winter is an especially important time to be vigilant when driving because road conditions and weather may not be optimal.




Always assume you are on “thin ice”


With the recent temperature drops across the state, Indiana Conservation Officers are advising Hoosiers across the state of the potential hazards of being on frozen lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams.

It’s also important to keep a watchful eye for other people who may venture out on neighborhood retention ponds, lakes and other waterways and find themselves in trouble.

Every winter, thousands of Hoosiers safely enjoy fishing, skating, hiking, or just sliding around on frozen ponds and lakes. And every year, people drown after falling through ice.

Just like driving differently on snow versus on clear roads, it’s important to adjust your approach to safely have fun on ice.

The best rule of thumb is to put safety first.  When you are thinking about getting on the ice, believe it is thin ice unless proven otherwise.

Here are a few tips to remember when considering standing on or walking on a frozen lake or pond: 

  • Remember that no ice is safe ice.
  • If you don’t know the thickness of the ice, don’t go on it.
  • Before going on the ice, leave a note of your whereabouts with a friend or family member.
  • Don’t test the thickness of ice while alone.
  • When testing the thickness of ice, use an ice auger. At least 4 inches of ice is recommended for ice fishing; at least 5 inches is recommended for snowmobiling.
  • Wear a life jacket or flotation coat.
  • Carry ice hooks and rope gear.

Wearing a life jacket is especially important when on the ice. If you fall through, a life jacket will keep your head above the water until help arrives.

Remember that the coatings of snow that Indiana receives can also make for treacherous ice conditions. The snow can insulate the ice, causing it to freeze at a slower rate. When snow and rain freeze into ice, it is never as strong as solid, clear ice.

Some other tips: 

  • If you see a pet or other animal in distress on the ice, do not go on the ice after it. Doing so can often end in tragedy. Instead, contact your local emergency response personnel, who are equipped to make a rescue.
  • Remember that some bodies of water will appear to be frozen solid but can have thin ice in several potentially unexpected areas.
  • Flowing water, such as rivers and streams, should be avoided when covered by a layer of ice.
  • Water that is surrounded by sand may freeze with inconsistencies in the thickness of the ice.
  • Underground springs, wind, waterfowl and other animals can also keep areas of ice thin.

Enjoy the winter weather but make safety a priority.




Cold weather safety tips for four-legged friends


Exposure to winter’s dry, cold air and chilly rain, sleet and snow can cause chapped paws and itchy, flaking skin, but these aren’t the only discomforts pets can suffer. Winter walks can become downright dangerous if chemicals from ice-melting agents are licked off of bare paws. To help prevent cold weather dangers from affecting your pet’s health, heed the following advice from experts at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals:

Repeatedly coming out of the cold into the dry heat of your home can cause itchy, flaking skin. Keep your home humidified and towel dry your pet as soon as he comes inside, paying special attention to his feet and in-between the toes. Remove any snow balls from between his foot pads.

Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. If your dog is long-haired, simply trim him to minimize the clinging ice balls, salt crystals and de-icing chemicals that can dry his skin, and don’t neglect the hair between his toes. If your dog is short-haired, consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.

Bring a towel on long walks to clean off stinging, irritated paws. After each walk, wash and dry your pet’s feet and stomach to remove ice, salt and chemicals—and check for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes.

Bathe your pets as little as possible during cold spells. Washing too often can remove essential oils and increase the chance of developing dry, flaky skin. If your pooch must be bathed, ask your vet to recommend a moisturizing shampoo and/or rinse.

Massaging petroleum jelly or other paw protectants into paw pads before going outside can help protect from salt and chemical agents. Booties provide even more coverage and can also prevent sand and salt from getting lodged between bare toes and causing irritation. Use pet-friendly ice melts whenever possible.

Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.

Pets burn extra energy by trying to stay warm in wintertime. Feeding your pet a little bit more during the cold weather months can provide much-needed calories, and making sure she has plenty of water to drink will help keep her well-hydrated and her skin less dry.

Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.

Remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet, so keep your animals inside. If left outdoors, pets can freeze, become disoriented, lost, stolen, injured or killed. In addition, don’t leave pets alone in a car during cold weather, as cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze to death.

Source: ASPCA



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