Winter can be an exciting season filled with celebration. But this time of year can also be quite dangerous. The inclement weather and freezing can present all sorts of hazards that can result in serious injury. And while 97% of patients who visit urgent care centers for their illnesses and injuries come to the right place to get the treatment they need, some situations may require medical attention from your doctor or from an emergency department. If you sustain any of the following injuries this winter, you should seek out healthcare from nearby medical professionals right away.
Snow Shoveling Injuries
You may dread the idea of shoveling your driveway — and for good reason. This necessary chore can lead to serious injuries and even fatalities. According to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, snow shoveling attributes to 11,500 injuries that require emergency treatment every year. Overexertion can lead to broken bones, bruises, and lacerations, as well as back and head injuries. Chest pain and cardiac arrest are also common.
If you have a pre-existing health condition or your doctor recommends that you not shovel snow, ask a family member or neighbor to shovel for you (or hire a service). Even those in peak physical health should always warm up beforehand, use an ergonomic shovel, and take plenty of breaks. Always wear warm clothing and slip-resistant footwear while shoveling, as well. And if you have difficulty breathing or experience chest pains, seek out medical help immediately.
Slips and Falls
Ice, snow, and excess water and mud all set the stage for lots of slip and fall incidents. Black ice and slippery steps can take down the best of us. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that fall-related injuries result in 3 million ER visits every year. And if you’re going to take a tumble, it’s likely to happen during this season.
When outside, you should always opt for footwear that fits you correctly and that provides ample traction. You should also walk at a slow gait and proceed with caution when entering or exiting vehicles or buildings. If you can avoid carrying items or keeping your hands in your pockets, this can allow you to maintain your balance and prevent more serious injuries if you should fall. Avoid uneven surfaces and test potentially slippery areas before walking on them. If you do fall down, carefully assess your injuries if you can and seek out medical attention if needed. You may not realize the extent of your injuries until later when the shock has worn off.
Frostnip and Frostbite
If you spend enough time outside in the freezing cold (particularly without the right protective garments), you could face the onset of frostnip or frostbite. Frostnip is the stage before frostbite sets in; while there may be no permanent damage, it can quickly escalate to the next stage if you don’t seek out proper care. Frostbite injuries occur when the skin and tissue literally become frozen. With frostnip, your skin may feel irritated (often characterized by stinging, burning, intense coldness, or tingling followed by a numbing sensation). If you feel your skin start to feel warm after this stage, it may have progressed into frostbite.
Frostnip can be treated through gradual warming, rather than through direct heat. Experiencing skin blisters after cold exposure may indicate frostbite. Your doctor can recommend treatments such as antibiotics and wound care that can prevent infection. If you have questions about the extent of a temperature-related injury like frostnip or frostbite, it’s a good idea to have it checked out right away by a professional.
This season can be tough on our health. Aside from the common cold and the flu, we also have to worry about falls and other injuries. But if you follow our preventative tips and seek out treatment from your doctor when you’re in doubt, you should be in good shape this winter.