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  2003 Press Releases  

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CONTACT: Nikki Smith
Phone: 1-217-785-9020, TTY: 1-800-252-8966

November 1, 2003

Winter Safety Warning Issued

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Itís time to get ready for winter. To prepare for the cold weather ahead, Illinois Department on Aging Director Charles D. Johnson today urged older people and their families to recognize that winter poses a special threat to seniors.

"I hope that older people and those who care for them will take practical moves now in anticipation of the cold weather ahead, " Johnson said.

"First on the list," he said, "is a check on the furnace to be sure that it is in good shape and heating ducts are properly ventilated." Proper ventilation is also a concern if you use alternative heat from a fireplace, wood stove or space heater. If you use heating oil, be sure that you have enough heating oil.

"Older people should set their thermostats to above 65 degrees," Johnson said. "Never turn down the heat to save money."

People who lower the thermostat to reduce heating bills risk developing hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition in which the body temperature drops dangerously low. At increased risk are older people who take certain medications, drink alcohol, lack proper nutrition, and who have conditions such as arthritis, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

"If paying the heating bill is a problem, please call the Department on Aging Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966," Johnson said. "The Department can help link eligible people to resources such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program."

Other cold-weather tips from Johnson and the Department on Aging are:

  • Dress in layers, both indoors and outdoors.

  • Keep active. Make a list of exercises and activities that you can do indoors when you cannot get out.

  • Eat well and drink 10 glasses of water every day.

  • Keep extra medications in the house. If this is not possible, make arrangements now with a pharmacy that will deliver.

  • Stock up on extra non-perishable food supplies, just in case.

  • Have your house winterized. Be sure that walls and attics are insulated. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows. Insulate pipes near outer walls, in crawl spaces and attics that are susceptible to freezing.

  • Make sure you and your family knows how to shut off the water supply in case pipes burst.

  • Prepare your vehicle for winter: Check wipers, tires, lights and fluid levels regularly. Keep a windshield scraper and small broom for ice and snow removal. Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season. Plan long trips carefully and travel by daylight with at least one other person.

  • Protect against fire. If you donít have a fire extinguisher, buy one. Make sure space heaters are at least three feet from anything flammable. Do not overload extension cords.

  • If you live in a house, plan now for someone else to shovel the snow when it comes. Do not shovel snow or walk in deep snow. The strain from the cold and hard labor could cause a heart attack; sweating can lead to a chill and even hypothermia.

Get your flu shot

Topping your ďto doĒ list should be a flu shot, the directors of two state departments said.

Now is the right time for the flu shot, because it takes two weeks for immunity to develop and provide protection. The flu season usually runs from November until April.

Charles D. Johnson, director of aging, and Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, today urged older people to get their annual shot to protect against the flu, formally called influenza.

"People 50 and older are considered most at risk, and the flu shot is strongly recommended," said Dr. Whitaker.

Flu shots must be taken annually, Johnson said, because different flu viruses circulate each year. This year, the shot was developed to protect against three strains of the flu that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects to circulate this season.

Besides the flu shot, Dr. Whitaker also recommends that older people receive a vaccination against pneumonia.



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For more information, contact the Illinois Department on Aging's Senior HelpLine.

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