Winter is a beautiful season, but it can also bring some health and safety risks. One of the most common risks is falling on slippery surfaces, such as ice and snow. Falls can cause serious injuries, like fractures, sprains, concussions and even death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 800,000 people are hospitalized each year due to fall injuries. That's why the Providence Institute for a Healthier Community offers some tips to help you prevent falls this winter.
Wear appropriate footwear.
One of the best ways to prevent falls in the winter is to wear shoes or boots that have good traction and grip.
- Avoid wearing shoes that are smooth, flat, or have heels.
- Look for footwear with rubber or neoprene soles or have cleats or spikes that can dig into the ice. You can also buy slip-resistant attachments that fit over your shoes, such as microspikes, crampons or ice grippers.
- Make sure your footwear fits well and is comfortable. If you have to wear dress shoes for work or an event, carry them with you and change into them indoors.
Walk like a penguin.
Another tip to prevent falls in the winter is to take a cue from penguins and walk carefully and slowly on slippery surfaces.
- Avoid rushing or running, which can increase your chances of losing your balance.
- Take small, slow, and deliberate steps, and keep your feet flat on the ground.
- Bend your knees slightly and lean forward a bit to lower your center of gravity.
- Use your arms to help you balance and avoid carrying heavy or bulky items that can throw you off balance.
If possible, use a cane, a walker, or a railing to help you steady yourself. If you have to walk on ice or snow, look for the most stable and clear path, and avoid patches of black ice which can be hard to see.
Keep your surroundings clear and well-lit.
A final tip to prevent falls in the winter is to keep your surroundings clear and well lit. Shovel and salt your driveway, sidewalk, stairs, and porch regularly to remove any snow or ice. Sand or kitty litter can be used to add some traction.
If you live in an apartment or a condo, check with your landlord or management company about their snow removal policy and schedule. You can also ask them to install or improve the lighting in common areas, such as hallways, stairwells, and parking lots. At home, keep your floors dry and free of clutter, and use nightlights or lamps to illuminate your path at night.
ASK ABOUT A FALLS-RISK SCREENING
Many factors contribute to balance issues in the winter. Knowing falls prevention can help reduce your risks or help protect a loved one. Providence Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your falls risk symptoms, provide instruction, and follow up as needed.
Talk to your doctor about a falls-risk screening. If you need to find a physician or advance practice clinician, use our find a doctor directory.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.