Avoiding the Slip: Winter Fall Prevention
Winter has arrived with cold weather, ice and snow. This combination may look beautiful but can be also dangerous! Orthopedic injuries from falls, such as broken bones in the wrist, arm, ankle or hip are common in this season. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury, which can be fatal. Here are some tips to prevent falls:
- Walk slow and carefully in appropriate footwear:
Using a slow and wider gait to protect against falls. Try not to be in a hurry—scrambling in and out of stores or hurrying on a sidewalk can be asking for trouble! Wear boots or other slip-resistant footwear is the best gear for the winter! This type of footwear can give you the best traction. Running out the door with slippers to “just grab the newspaper or mail” can be disastrous!
- Use special care when getting in and out of vehicles:
Plant both feet firmly on the ground before moving. Check to see if the ground is slippery before getting out of car. Use the door frame to support yourself as needed.
- Watch for slippery floors when entering your home or buildings:
Treat many areas as risky or unsafe in the winter, it may be difficult to detect icy spots. Melting and refreezing snow can produce ice especially at entrances to buildings.
- Avoid walking with your hands in your pockets or carrying items in your hands:
Walking with hands in your pockets can reduce your ability to catch yourself if you lose your balance. Don’t be carrying items in your arms, it can cause you to be unbalanced while walking and again unable to catch yourself. Think about using a backpack if you must carry items.
- Watch out for black ice:
Black ice can be very dangerous. Black ice is a thin coat of highly transparent ice. It blends in with the pavement, since it is so thin making it nearly impossible to see. The most common locations are shaded or tree covered parts of the driveway or roadways due to the lack of sunlight.
- Check potentially slick areas by tapping them with your foot:
Walk as flat-footed as possible in very icy areas.
- Avoid uneven surfaces:
Stay aware of the surfaces ahead of you. Avoid broken pavement, or cracked sidewalks, steps or curbs with ice on them.
- Remember: “Ice & snow mean take it slow!”
What to do if a fall happens:
- Don’t get up right away or let anyone help you up immediately: this avoids the potential for further injury. Rather, take your time, lie there for a moment and assess how you are feeling.
- After making an assessment of your injury status, if you can get up, roll to one side. Bend your knees toward you, push up with your arms and then use your legs to stand the rest of the way.
- If someone assists you to your feet, ensure that he/she doesn’t get hurt also.
- Call 911 if the fall has led to an emergency situation.
Sources: Mayo Clinic Newsletter & UPMC Urgent Care