During the winter, typically beginning in December through the end of March, Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services will call a Code Blue when winter conditions pose a threat of serious harm or death to our city’s homeless, seniors and other vulnerable populations.

A Code Blue is called when the National Weather Bureau predicts a wind chill temperature of 20° Fahrenheit or below or precipitation with temperatures below 32° Fahrenheit.

Hypothermia is what happens when your body temperature gets very low. For an older person, a body temperature of 95° F or lower can cause many health problems, such as a heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage, or worse. Being outside in the cold, or even being in a very cold house, can lead to hypothermia in Code Blue weather. Older individuals are at an increased risk of hypothermia because their bodies cannot withstand the cold as long as younger people. It’s also true that some medications and illnesses can further heighten this risk.

Wearing layered winter gear along with a hat, mittens and warm shoes can do wonders in preventing hypothermia to keep warm. Inside, it is important to make sure home temperatures are set to 68 degrees Fahrenheit or higher and it never hurts to wear layers and cozy up under a blanket to stay extra warm. In addition, seniors may want to talk to their physicians about any medications or chronic health problems that could increase their risk of hypothermia.

If you believe that someone is suffering from hypothermia, it is important to call 911 and seek medical attention for them immediately. It is advised that you do not try to rub their arms or legs to warm the person up, nor should you put them into a hot bath. Until help arrives, you should instead move the affected individual to a warm, dry place, get them into warm clothing, and under blankets. It is also critical to take care to not shake them. If the person in your care is conscious, giving them a hot beverage is also ideal.

If you’re worried about an elderly person during a Code Blue, contact the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging at 215-765-9040.

Always check on seniors when the temperature dips or snow and ice are present. Just giving them a call can provide insight into how the person is doing and can save a life in case of an emergency. Homecare allows seniors to age in place safely. Having a caretaker ensures that there will be somebody there to check on seniors and help them out around the house during the cold winter months, providing peace of mind to both them and their family members.

Hands From The Heart is Pennsylvania’s premier homecare agency. We provide non-medical home health care services to seniors and adults with physical disabilities, enabling those in need to continue to live in the comfort of their own home. If you believe that you or a loved one is in need of homecare services, please visit our website at www.handsfromtheheart.org or give us a call at (484)-270-4501 to learn more about how we can help.