Winter is here, and snow has already covered many regions of the United States. HSHS St. John’s Hospital wants to ensure area residents stay as safe as possible when venturing outdoors. The frigid temperatures also come with the risk of cold-related injuries, the most common being hypothermia and frostbite.
Hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature falls below 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Warnings signs include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness.
Frostbite is caused by freezing and most often impacts the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes. Symptoms of frostbite include – an area of white or grayish-yellow skin, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy and numbness.
If you must be outdoors during frigid temperatures:
- Dress in layers and wear insulated clothing that allows for evaporation and minimal absorption of perspiration.
- Take breaks. Be sure to warm up inside when needed.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Avoid alcohol.
Slips and falls can also cause serious harm as conditions of roads, parking lots and sidewalks worsen in winter weather. Additionally, snow shoveling is responsible for thousands of injuries and as many as 100 deaths each year nationwide, according to the National Safety Council.
Here are some tips to be mindful of over the next few months to avoid slips and falls:
- Be aware of wet, dark areas on the pavement.
- Walk slowly and take short strides.
- Keep your hands free and extend your arms while walking.
Keeping your driveway and walkway clear of snow and ice is, in most cases, a necessity and will help prevent falls this winter. But it is important to not overexert yourself which can lead to serious health issues.
Follow these snow-shoveling tips to help keep you safe this winter.
- Dress appropriately.
- Warm up first.
- Use proper equipment.
- Lift snow correctly.
- Avoid overexerting yourself.
- Choose chemical products carefully.
“In addition, it is always best to check with your doctor to make sure that it is all right for you to shovel snow. If you have a medical condition or are not used to strenuous exercise, it may be safer to have someone else clear the snow,” said Dr. Brian Miller, Prairie Heart Institute cardiologist at HSHS St. John’s Hospital. “If you are shoveling snow or using a snow blower and experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other sudden or severe symptoms, stop immediately and call 9-1-1.”