Sunday, December 27, 2009

Don't Make Wintertime Danger Time for Seniors in Allentown, PA

Snow, cold disproportionately threaten older people

By Kathleen Ewald,

Winter storms bring new health hazards for seniors. Cold-related injuries, from frostbite to falls, are particularly common among older people who are more susceptible to the effects of winter weather than younger people.

The following tips can help seniors get through the icy, cold, wet weather that is winter.

Icy, unshoveled walkways.

Slippery and snowy sidewalks can be difficult, particularly for seniors with balance and stability problems, to navigate.

Solution: Keep sidewalks and driveways well shoveled; apply rock salt or sand to create traction on wet or icy patches. Shoveling is strenuous and shouldn't be undertaken by older or unfit people. Look to friends and neighbors to help shovel or hire a contractor to plow or shovel after a storm. Sturdy, waterproof boots with rubber soles and treads make walking on slippery surfaces easier and safer.

Frigid temperatures

Exposure to cold weather can lead to frostbite (white, frozen skin) or hypothermia (lowered body temperature, characterized by shivering, confusion and dizziness). Seniors, with less efficient circulatory systems than younger adults, are at increased risk.

Solution: Check a weather report before leaving home, paying close attention to the wind chill factor, which indicates how cold it feels outside. (A wind chill below -10 degrees F is considered bitterly cold.) Dress in layers to avoid losing body heat. Wearing a hat with earflaps and mittens (which allow the fingers to touch, promoting heat) or insulated gloves thwarts frostbitten ears and fingers. Thick wool or synthetic socks and waterproof, insulated boots will protect feet from frostbite. If you notice signs of frostbite, seek medical attention immediately.

Hypothermia can be life threatening for older adults. If you suspect hypothermia, take the person's temperature. If it's below 96 degrees, it won't register on an oral thermometer, an indicator the person must get to a hospital immediately.

Sun glare

Sunlight reflects off white snow, causing glare that can make it difficult to see.

Solution: Wear sunglasses with ultra violet (UV) filters, suggests Connie Harvey, an American Red Cross health and safety expert. Overexposure to UV rays can lead to cataracts of the eye. In addition, sun is damaging to skin, even in winter. Seniors (and everyone) should apply an SPF 15 sunscreen to their faces before engaging in outdoor activities on a sunny winter day.

Finally, don't lose contact with others when bad weather hits. "Seniors should always have a network of friends or family who will check in on them," says the Red Cross's Harvey.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Helping Seniors Deal with Winter Pains in Allentown, PA

How to dodge or deal with winter aches and pains

(ARA) - Happy holidays, time with friends and family, the freshness of a new year - there are many things to look forward to with the arrival of winter. If you're among the millions of Americans, however, who suffer from chronic pain, winter can bring on a whole new set of problems and pains.

Whether you suffer from chronic ailments like arthritis or fibromyalgia, or simply experience the aches, pains and stiffness associated with past injuries or with aging, winter's cold and dampness can exacerbate these problems. Plus, there's the potential to suffer painful injuries from winter activities like shoveling snow or hazards like slipping on icy ground.

Here is some simple advice to minimize winter's impact on chronic pain and avoid new pains from injuries:

Arthritis and fibromyalgia

While both conditions can cause excruciating pain, both also respond well to positive influences like exercise, diet and hot/cold therapy. To help minimize winter's impact on these two chronic ailments, be sure to stay active and maintain prescribed medications and therapies. Dress warmly when going outdoors, wearing layers that help trap heat near your body.

Turn to hot and cold therapy to soothe sore muscles and aching joints. You don't need to resort to a hot water bottle or an ice pack to get hot/cold therapy relief. The IMAK Therapy Wrap is a 38-inch wrap that fits virtually any part of the body. Insertable gel packs can be heated or chilled, depending on what works for your pain. Breathable cotton Lycra fabric keeps the wrap comfortable against the skin. Visit to learn more.

Hot and cold therapy had also proven useful in treating normal aches and pains associated with aging, and with pain resulting from injury. To avoid common winter injuries from shoveling snow or slips and falls, follow this advice:

* Stretch before you start, just as you would if engaging in a workout.

* Shovel while it's still snowing and shovel repeatedly throughout the snowfall. That way, you're not trying to move a large amount of heavy, wet snow when the snowfall is over and the accumulation greater.

* Use a small shovel - a large one may tempt you to overdo it - and let the stronger muscles of your legs do most of the lifting and pushing work. Bend at the knees to avoid excess strain on your back.

If you do overdo it and wind up with some aches and pains, turn to hot and cold therapy to soothe sore muscles.

Other outdoor dangers

Raking leaves, shoveling snow, even sitting for long hours in the cold on stadium bleachers watching a football game - all can put undue strain on your neck and shoulders. When performing outdoor physical activity that could strain your neck, be sure to take regular breaks, and let your strong leg muscles do as much of the work as possible. If you're sitting for long periods in the cold, dress warmly in layers and be sure to protect your neck with a warm scarf. Shift position often, standing up when possible, bending forward and gently stretching your neck, arm and shoulder muscles to avoid stiffness.

Hot and cold therapy can also help alleviate neck pain if you do end up straining muscles. IMAK's Hot/Cold Neck Support allows you to put the therapeutic effects of heat or cold directly on sore neck muscles. A microwave-safe gel pack can be heated or chilled as needed.

Finally, be aware of the risk and dangers of inclement winter weather. Slips on ice and frostbite from snow send thousands to emergency rooms every winter. If you must walk on ice, take measures to ensure your footing is good, such as using special cleats that attach to your shoes or wearing thick-soled snow boots. Never shovel snow, play in snow or spend time outdoors in snow unless you are appropriately dressed in warm layers, including hat, gloves and warm boots.

With a few precautions and the right therapy, you can enjoy winter months free of the aches and pains associated with colder weather. Courtesy of ARAcontent