“Even a simple task like shoveling snow can lead to injuries if people are not taking the proper precautions,” said Andrea Lyons, MD, KentuckyOne Health Primary Care Associates. “We encourage everyone to plan ahead and take note of some of the easiest ways to avoid injuries during the winter months.”
Fractured ankles and broken hips are two of the most common injuries that can result from winter weather-related falls. Take proper precautions to avoid falls.
- To help prevent falls, wear appropriate shoes to increase traction on ice and snow. Rubber or neoprene soles, especially those with plenty of tread, provide much better traction than smooth leather soles and high heels. Avoid “comfort” shoes with smooth soles during the winter.
- If you have to walk on slippery surfaces, bend your body slightly forward, take shorter strides, or shuffle your feet for better traction and stability. Walk flat-footed with your center of gravity directly over the feet. Slowing down and taking shorter steps will allow you to react to a change in traction more easily.
- Beware of “black ice,” which can be impossible to see. It is a transparent, thin coating of glazed ice on surfaces like dark asphalt. Stick to cleared pathways or ones that have been treated with sand or salt.
Shoveling snow can increase a person’s risk for back pain or a heart attack, so it’s important to take the proper precautions.
- Always lift from the core of your body, bending at the knees and hips.
- Don’t lift more snow than your body is comfortable with.
- Avoid pivoting while shoveling snow. Push snow to the front of you.
Frostbite and hypothermia are two medical emergencies that can occur in the winter months due to exposure to cold.
Frostbite is a type of injury that occurs when a person’s skin is exposed to the cold. Frostbite is caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. Early signs of frostbite include white, waxy or grayish-yellow skin that is cold and numb. Frostbite can lead to amputation if not caught early enough.
Take steps to prevent problems from cold weather exposure or to deal with them if you suspect frostbite or hypothermia.
- Always wear gloves, dry socks, a coat and warm hat in the snow. If your gloves or socks are wet, change into dry accessories to avoid frostbite, which typically begins in the fingers and toes.
- Avoid using hot water if you suspect frostbite; use warm water instead.
- If the body part you suspect has frostbite continues to have pain for more than 20 minutes, or you have no feeling at all, go to an emergency room.
- If you suspect hypothermia in yourself or someone you know, immediately call 911. Remove any wet clothing, add blankets or towels beneath and around the victim, cover the victim’s head, and administer CPR if needed.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
- Do not use portable, flameless chemical heaters indoors.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home.
- Change your heating filters before winter begins.
- Never pre-warm a vehicle inside a garage with the door down. This can lead to dangerous levels of toxic exhaust in a non-ventilated area.
- Only use your oven for cooking. Never heat your home with an oven.
- Turn off portable heaters when going to bed.
During winter months, take precautions to keep yourself and your family safe. If you have a minor injury, visit www.kentuckyonehealth.org/primary-care, or call 888.570.8092. If you are experiencing a serious injury, go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.