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DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
National Institutes of Health National Institute on Aging
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|Thursday, January 23, 2003
||Contact: Jeannine Mjoseth
Is it Hypothermia?
Look for the "Umbles" -- Stumbles, Mumbles, Fumbles,
Older people who lower the thermostat to cut heating bills raise
their risk of hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition in which
the body's temperature drops for a prolonged period. Hypothermia
is a particular problem for older people who lack proper nutrition,
take certain medications, drink alcohol, and who have conditions
such as arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and Parkinson's
If you suspect someone may have hypothermia (hi-po-ther-mee-uh),
look for the "umbles"-stumbles, mumbles, fumbles, and
grumbles-these show that the cold is affecting how well a person's
muscles and nerves work. Take their temperature with a thermometer
that has been shaken to its lowest point. If their temperature
doesn't rise above 96°, call for emergency help. While you
are waiting, keep the person warm and dry. Wrap the person in
blankets, towels, coats-whatever is handy. An older person's skin
may be easily damaged so be gentle if you rub their arms and legs
to generate warmth.
Call 1-800-222-2225 to order the National Institute on Aging's
(NIA) free AgePage on avoiding hypothermia. Call 1-866-674-6327,
the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) if you need help
paying your heating bills. NEAR operators will give callers the
number of their state Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
(LIHEAP) office and local agency referrals for help paying their
The NIA, part of the National Institutes of Health at the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, leads the federal research
effort on the conditions and diseases associated with aging. Visit
the NIA Website (
for more information.