Avoid 4 Winter Weather Hazards with these Safety Tips

While the Triad area of North Carolina has mild winters compared to many parts of the country, January and February typically bring several episodes of snow, ice, and plunging temperatures. These conditions present a few health hazards. Try these tips to escape the most common injuries and emergencies when we see the wintry weather moving into our area.

1. The Icy Driveway

Freezing rain and snow can leave sidewalks and driveways slick or icy. If you must go outside, try these tips for navigating a slick surface:

  • Keep a container of salt and/or sand in your garage or near doors to sprinkle on driveways and sidewalks to reduce snow and ice. Consider keeping one in your car too, to sprinkle around your vehicle if you are parking in a lot with icy surfaces.
  • Use “the penguin shuffle” to walk over a slick surface: take shorter, slower, flat steps (like a penguin) and don’t lean forward. Keep your head up and concentrate on maintaining your balance. 
  • Be sure your shoes or boots have good traction. 

2. Hidden Sledding Dangers

Each year, more than 20,000 children are treated for sledding injuries. Trauma to the head is one of the more serious injuries that can occur. Keep children and adults safe with these tips:

  • Buy sleds that can be controlled with a steering mechanism and brakes.
  • Sledders should wear a helmet to prevent skull injuries.
  • Sled on gently sloping hills with a level run-off at the end so the sled can easily stop.
  • Check slopes for bare spots, holes, and objects such as rocks, curbs, poles, or trees.
  • Do not sled on or around frozen lakes, streams, or ponds.
  • Never sled headfirst. Sit on the sled or lay on the back with the feet pointing downhill. 

3. Snow Shoveling Don’ts

How much is too much when it comes to shoveling snow? Both back injuries and heart attacks can result from snow shoveling. If you’re normally a sedentary person, suddenly moving pounds and pounds of snow after a heavy snowfall can put you at risk of a heart attack. In addition to the exertion, cold weather can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. It can make blood clot more easily and constrict arteries, which decreases blood supply. You can avoid overexertion by following these guidelines:

  • Take it slow and stretch out before you begin.
  • Shovel only fresh, powdery snow; it’s lighter.
  • Push the snow rather than lifting it.
  • If you do lift it, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel.
  • Lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion.

4. Frostbite Damage

One of the biggest myths about frostbite is that it only occurs when the skin is exposed to cold conditions. Frostbite, which is freezing of the skin and the tissue below the skin, occurs in stages. 

Signs of frostbite include:

  • At first, cold skin and a prickling feeling
  • Numbness
  • Red, white, bluish-white, or grayish-yellow skin
  • Hard or waxy-looking skin
  • Clumsiness due to joint and muscle stiffness
  • In severe cases, the area will blister after rewarming

To prevent frostbite, follow these tips. 

  • Dress in several layers of loose, warm clothing. Air trapped between the layers of clothing acts as insulation against the cold. Choose undergarments that wick moisture away from your skin. 
  • Change out of wet clothing — particularly gloves, hats, and socks — as soon as possible.
  • Wear a hat or headband that fully covers your ears. Heavy woolen or windproof materials make the best headwear for cold protection.
  • Wear mittens rather than gloves. Mittens provide better protection. Or try a thin pair of glove liners made of a wicking material (such as polypropylene) under a pair of heavier gloves or mittens.
  • Wear socks and sock liners that fit well, wick moisture, and provide insulation. At the first signs of frostbite – tingling skin – seek shelter and let your body slowly rewarm. 

Need a Same-Day Appointment for a Minor Injury?

LeBauer HealthCare providers are trained to treat minor injuries and same-day appointments are available. Contact the LeBauer office nearest you to schedule an appointment.  

If you are experiencing signs of a heart attack, severe frostbite, a broken bone, or a serious sledding injury, you should go to the nearest emergency room.

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