Babies and Older Adults Have an Increased Risk of Cold Injury

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Topic Overview

Babies

Babies, especially newborns, are more likely to suffer injury from cold temperature exposure.

  • They have a large body surface area compared with their weight. Their body heat is lost more rapidly when exposed to cold weather conditions.
  • Their ability to regulate body temperatures is not well-developed. They are not able to shiver (which warms a person up).
  • They don't have much fat under their skin (which keeps them warm).

Older adults

Older adults are more likely to have a cold injury, especially hypothermia, because:

  • Their normal body temperature may decrease with age.
  • They can't regulate their body temperature as well. They do not produce as much heat energy. They also have less body fat.
  • Their blood vessels do not narrow (constrict) and conserve body heat as easily.
  • They do not shiver as much. Shivering warms the body.
  • Their mental awareness of changes in temperatures may change.
  • They have medical conditions that increase their risk for hypothermia. Some of these conditions include:
  • They are more likely to be using medicines that may affect their response to cold.
  • They may live alone and have fewer resources to keep them safe from cold injury. They are more likely to have poorly heated homes.

Credits

Current as of: June 26, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine