Hypothermia; What is it? How does it affect the elderly? 

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  • Created by: Emily
  • Created on: 12-04-11 13:15
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What is it?
Hypothermia is when a person's body loses heat rapidly due to
extensive exposure to extreme cold, and their temperature drops below
35°C. Below this temperature, normal bodily functions cannot take
place properly. Your metabolic rate drops, and your nervous system,
vital organs, and muscles slowly decrease in efficiency. Left untreated,
hypothermia eventually leads to complete failure of your heart, brain
and respiratory system, which is fatal. The term hypothermia literally
means "low heat".
How does hypothermia affect the elderly?
As the ability to control one's internal environment decreases with age,
elderly people are more susceptible to hypothermia as their bodily
defence against changes in temperature is weaker. Furthermore, as
older people tend to be less mobile, and often slightly malnourished,
they are more likely to get cold easily. Other factors putting them more
at risk include commonly taken drugs which can contribute to
hypothermia's onset, and in some cases dementia which could mean a
person might not realise quite how cold they are. Also, if a person's
nervous system, circulatory system or thyroid is damaged from a
previous condition, they are much more susceptible to hypothermia.


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