Healthy Home Heating

Some people have their eyes on the price of gasoline. Others are wondering just how high their home heating bills are going to go this winter.

Eighty-four-year-old Marie Jones is one of those local residents. A volunteer at St. Mary's for 16 years, she's on a fixed income, so when her sister got the home heating oil bill recently, she was interested.

"$742; that's for 250 gallons, which is filling it, you know, this time of year. I think it is way too much."

Marie says her oil heating bill will probably run about the same, which means she'll have the thermostat a little lower than normal. To save money, that's probably not such a bad idea, but if temperatures lower to unhealthy levels, seniors and others can run into medical problems.

St. Mary's emergency room physician Dr. Jennifer Wilson says, "You may be saving money on heating bills, but you are going to end up paying for it in medical costs."

Wilson and others from the American College of Emergency Physicians says this year's heating costs may mean low income seniors do two things: buy less food and or medications to pay the monthly power bill.

Both can have life threatening effects. Malnutrition can affect the way our body handles cold. Certain medication or lack of it can change our perception of the cold. Dr. Wilson says there are other dangers in drastically trying to cut home heating costs.

"There is also a danger of people trying to warm themselves by keeping their stove on or oven there is a major danger of carbon monoxide poisoning."

Dr. Wilson says temperatures should not go below 65 degrees during the day and 55 at night.

People should consider wearing layered clothing, and avoid drinking alcohol to stay warm, as it actually lowers your body temperature.

There are local and national home heating assistance programs. If you'd like more information you can call toll free at 1-866-674-6327 or by eemailing energyassistance@ncat.org.


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