Cold, snow, and ice are a part of life and can wreak havoc in the winter, so it can be challenging this time of year to stay healthy. Emergency departments often see people suffering from cold weather injuries, some of which are preventable.

Slips and Falls

Icy outdoor surfaces often make people vulnerable to slips and falls. The resulting injuries can include broken bones, hurt backs, or sprained joints. Head injuries are also common.

Being mindful of how you walk in the winter can decrease your chances of slipping on ice. Take short, slow steps with slightly bent knees – as if you’re waddling like a penguin – and extend your arms to your sides. Leaving your hands in your pockets will make balancing harder – so try wearing gloves instead. Use handrails whenever possible, and treat every walkway as though it has black ice. Plan in advance and give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination.

Dress Wisely To Prevent Falls

If you know you will have to walk through the snow and ice, Your footwear choice matters. Make sure that your footwear is comfortable and fits you well. Choose a pair with good treads. Rubber soles tend to have the best grip. Consider adding cleats to your footwear for extra traction. If you use a walking aid, such as a trekking pole or a cane, make sure you add a nonslip tip to aid in grip. Carry a cell phone so you can call for help if you fall and get injured. 

If you’re going to walk in the dark, wear bright-colored clothing or reflective-type material and follow all traffic rules for pedestrians. It is important to dress for cold temperatures, but make sure your clothing, like your hat or scarf, doesn’t get in the way of your eyes. You want to be able to see the path in front of you to avoid tripping on something unexpected. Also, be aware that a poorly fitting face mask or a face mask that causes your glasses to fog could interfere with your vision.

What To Do if You Fall

Getting appropriate care after a fall is always important, especially if you are older, even more so if you are over 65. Severe injury can occur from what younger people might call a minor fall, such as slipping while stepping off a curb. Broken hips, head injuries, and other serious injuries can significantly impact overall health, well-being, and longevity and should not be underestimated. An Urgent care clinic or Emergency room visit may be appropriate if you think you have a sprain, strain, or a break. Minor injuries can be treated by rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

If you fall and are unable to get up, think you may have a broken bone or are in severe pain, have a head injury, seek emergency medical care if you have a loss of consciousness, a severe headache after the fall, nausea, vomiting, confusion or disorientation after the injury, increased sleepiness, seizures, or are on blood thinning medications. 

If you are having or think you are having a medical emergency. STOP, call 911 immediately, or ask someone to call 911 for you.