It can be beautiful to look out on a picture-perfect Christmas card scene, sparkling with frost, ice and snow. But, if you’re trying to get to the supermarket, or a doctors appointment or anything that requires you to walk or drive anywhere, suddenly the winter landscape is less inviting.
Whatever your age, the winter months come with an increased risk of injury. But there are some simple things you can do to protect yourself and avoid spending the rest of the winter cooped up at home nursing a fracture or a sprain.
Before you step out of your front door this winter, take a quick look at our 10-point checklist for avoiding seasonal injuries:
(1) Dress appropriately
Experts tell us that the best thing to wear for keeping warm in the cold weather is layers of light, loose, waterproof clothing. Our temperature fluctuates and it is important to be able to adjust our clothing to accommodate these changes in temperature.
(2) Wear supportive, non-slip footwear
When there is a risk of ice, you need warm, sturdy footwear that has a good grip on the sole and good ankle support.
(3) Warm up your muscles
Cold muscles and ligaments are more prone to injury. Try a few simple stretches before you go outside to give your muscles a bit of a workout. If you are participating in winter sports, it is vital to warm up well.
(4) Protect yourself
Our extremities – fingers, toes, noses – are particularly susceptible to the cold so make sure you wear gloves, warm socks or tights and scarves. We also loose a lot of heat through our heads so a hat will help you to stay warm. If you’re participating in winter sports, be sure the wear the appropriate protective equipment and follow all expert advice.
(5) Be careful
As obvious as it sounds, when it is icy and cold, take extra care and avoid putting yourself in risky situations, as far as possible.
(6) Check the weather forecast
Be prepared. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and, if you can, avoid going out in sub zero temperatures. If you do need to go out, pay attention to the wind chill as well as the air temperature as it can be significantly colder.
(7) Know the signs of hypothermia
Hypothermia is a killer. It happens when the body temperature drops below 35 degrees. Know the signs and seek medical help immediately if you observe the following symptoms: shivering; cold, pale skin; slurred speech; fast breathing; tiredness; confusion. First aid for hypothermia is as follows:
- get the person indoors
- remove any wet clothing and dry them
- wrap them in blankets
- give them a warm, non-alcoholic drink, but only if they can swallow properly
- give them food containing sugar, such as chocolate, but only if they can swallow properly
- if they stop breathing, perform CPR until medical help arrives
(8) Keep well hydrated
Our bodies lose water through normal everyday activities like breathing and sweating. It is important to keep well-hydrated in winter as well as in summer by drinking water and other fluids throughout the day.
(9) Be careful when snow shovelling
When it snows many of us go outside to shovel snow off the driveway or pavement. But snow shovelling is a heavy physical task that can result in serious injury, particularly to the lower back, hands and arms. If you do decide to shovel snow, it is important to warm up thoroughly beforehand and not to overdo it.
(10) Don’t drive if you don’t need to
In the UK, we are fairly inexperienced at driving in icy or snowy conditions. In extreme weather, the advice is normally to avoid making non-essential journeys. And, if you do need to drive, to take extra care and slow down.