How to Prevent Winter Injuries
Winter weather conditions bring with them a variety of risks for personal injury, as icy surfaces, uneven footing, poor visibility, and cold weather can make even simple activities potentially dangerous. Below we look at common winter hazards like falls and snow shoveling injuries, and give some tips on how to safeguard yourself and your environment to stay safe in the winter!
Falling On Ice and Snow
Ice is a constant winter concern and can be difficult to see even in the daytime. Anyone is at risk of injuring themselves by slipping on ice, but senior citizens tend to be at a higher risk of injury. According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of injury among older Americans, and winter weather conditions only increase the concern.
There are a variety of potential injuries that can occur from falls on ice, but the most common include:
- Head or brain injuries, including concussions
- Muscle sprains
- Ligament strains
- Broken bones
So, how can you keep your family safer and prevent a slip or fall on icy, snowy days?
- Wear proper footwear, such as boots or anything with treaded soles, that are made for icy and snowy conditions.
- Keep your stride shorter and avoid taking long steps.
- Slow things down: try not to rush or run outdoors.
- Keep sand or salt on hand, so that you can melt ice and provide traction for walking.
- Take your time doing outdoor chores or activities instead of hurrying.
- Keep the lights on: make sure the areas around your house are well-lit, especially driveways and walkways.
- Install railings: make sure any outdoor stairs have sturdy railings attached.
- Keep walkways clear: shovel snow and use salt or other ice melt products to keep your walkways as dry as possible.
Shoveling snow seems like a merely a tiresome chore, but requires a great deal of physical exertion that causes over 1,000 emergency room visits per year from soft tissue injuries, fractures, and even heart attacks.
How can you prevent injury from snow shoveling?
- Take frequent breaks.
- Stay hydrated.
- Salt your driveway or sidewalk before the snow starts falling.
- Warm up for about 10 minutes before you start shoveling: this can include stretching, walking, squats, or any light to moderate exercise.
- Start as early as you can: It's easier to shovel 2 inches of fresh snow than 6 inches of dense, packed snow. Shovel multiple times if all day snow is expected.
- Shovel small amounts at a time: don't lift or move too much heavy snow at once.
- Push, don't lift: Pushing the snow is much easier on your body.
- Proper shoveling form: keep your feet hip distance apart, bend your knees, and keep your back straight. Don't twist your torso when lifting!
- Consider hiring someone to do it.
Winter Activity Tips
Whether you're competing in a sport or just playing in the snow, winter activities can be risky if not done safely. Inclement weather and slippery surfaces add an additional level of danger to anything.
Here are some steps that you and your family can take to practice safety, all while still having fun on those blustery, winter, snow days!
- Never go off alone, or at least make sure someone knows where you are if you're out for a walk or run.
- Proper conditioning: keep active, stretch regularly, and don't do anything too strenuous for your fitness level.
- Warm yourself before physical activity, and stay as warm as possible during it. Cold muscles, tendons, and ligaments are more vulnerable to injury.
- Keep hydrated! You may not notice your thirst as much in cold weather, but your body's still losing water. Keep drinking water during any physical activity.
- Wear appropriate protective gear, incorporating weather protection: goggles, helmets, gloves, and padding.
- Wear appropriate clothing: several layers of light, loose, and water-and-wind resistant clothing will accommodate your body's changing temperature. Wear proper footwear that provides warmth, dryness, and ankle support.
- Take lessons from a qualified instructor for sports like skiing and snowboard.
- Watch the weather! If your activity becomes threatened by a severe storm or extreme cold, cancel it and get back inside.
- Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia in you and anyone with you. Seek shelter and medical attention immediately if anyone shows signs of these conditions, or experiences any injury.
- Bring your phone: make sure you always have a cell phone with you in case you need to call for help.