Winter Fall Prevention
It’s hard to believe but before we know it we will once again be dealing with snow and ice. As the weather changes and conditions become slippery, it’s important to think about what you can do to prevent falls this winter.
Risk Factors for Falls
While you may only think of winter falls as a concern for older people, anyone can take a slip especially during our Ohio winters. General risk factors for falls in any season include:
- Previous falls
- Poor vision
- Chronic conditions
- Use of multiple medications
- Fear of falling
The good news is, there are things you can do to prevent winter falls or reduce the severity of the injuries that may be caused by falls.
Dress appropriately. Any time you are going outside, even if only for a walk to the mailbox, you should wear warm clothes and shoes with good traction. Staying warm helps your muscles stay relaxed and warm clothes can also protect you from injury or exposure if you do fall.
Use caution. Take your time getting from point A and point B and allow extra time when going places so you aren’t tempted to rush. When outside, walk slower and use a wider stance for increase stability.
Avoid risky paths. Make sure you keep the paths around your house as clear as possible. When out and about, try to take a path that is clear of snow, ice, uneven walks, or any other obstacles. Take extra caution when getting in and out of cars and check for slippery spots.
Bring your cellphone. Take your phone or a medical alert device every time you go outside so that if you do fall, you’re able to easily call for help.
Use kitty litter or sand in a bag to sprinkle as you go for traction.
Maintain good bone health. It’s important to get calcium from food sources or supplements and vitamin D from the sun or supplements prescribed by a doctor. By keeping your bones strong and healthy, it will reduce your likelihood of breaking something if you fall.
Talk to your doctor about your individual risk of falling. There are several factors that may increase your personal risk of falling. Before the weather turns, talk to your doctor about your own situation and what steps you can take to avoid a fall this winter.
What to do if you fall
Take your time getting up. It helps you avoid potential for further injury and allows you to assess how you’re feeling.
If you assess your injury and determine you can get up without assistance, the best way to do so is by rolling to one side, bending your knees toward you, pushing up with your arms, and then using your legs to stand up the rest of the way.
If you need assistance getting up and someone is there to help you, make sure they are cautious and do not get hurt as well. It’s important to make sure the person helping you isn’t also on slippery ground so they don’t fall and hurt themselves and possible injure you more.
If there is no one around and you cannot get up on your own, use your cellphone or a medical alert device to call for help.
If the fall leads to a serious injury or an emergency situation, do not hesitate to call 911.
Dr. Prerna Ladha is a Trauma Surgeon with MetroHealth in Cleveland and is a new member of the trauma team at Fisher-Titus. Fisher-Titus has been a Level 3 Trauma Center since 2009 and has had a Trauma Partnership with MetroHealth since October 2018.