Fall Injuries in the Winter: How Can You Prevent Them?
Every year, 3 million older adults go to the emergency room for fall injuries, and about 800,000 of them are hospitalized. Falls aren’t just dangerous for older adults, though. Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
No matter your age, you should know your risk of falling and how you can prevent it. Snow and ice make winter a treacherous time, but if you’re careful, you can prevent falling and incurring an injury.
Why Do People Fall in Winter?
There are many reasons people fall, both young and old. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you’re immune to falling accidents over winter. Most people aren’t careful enough and experience accidents that are easily preventable.
Here are some of the most common reasons people fall during winter:
- Not wearing proper shoes
- Tense muscles
- Veering off cleared pathways
- Not keeping pathways/driveways clear
- Not being aware of snow/ice
- Muscle weakness because of inactivity
- Medications that cause issues with balance
- Vision trouble
How to Prevent Falls
You can take steps to prevent falls and injury this winter.
Foremost, slow down and allow for extra time. Many people fall over winter because they try to move too fast. With snow and ice, you can’t move at the same speed as you do during summer.
Make sure you’re wearing the proper gear. Shoes with good traction are essential, especially in icy weather. Warm clothing is just as important as cold weather can make your muscles tense. Tense muscles lessen your balance and make you more likely to fall.
Always be aware of your surroundings and know when there is snow or ice. Even if you can’t see ice, there may be black ice present. When getting out of your car, keep both feet on the ground, and hold on to the side of your car before standing. When walking, keep your eyes on the ground in front of you, especially in dark areas.
Be sure to keep pathways, sidewalks, and driveways clear. Many accidents happen because people don’t take the time to shovel, plow, or salt the areas outside their homes. When in public places, stick to clear pathways and don’t take shortcuts.
For Disabled & Older Adults
For older adults, falls are the primary cause of fatal and non-fatal injury.
Stay active and healthy over winter, especially if you’re older. It’s all too tempting to stay inside and curl up in front of the fireplace over winter. But you still need to exercise and maintain your muscles. Weakened muscles increase falls, especially in older adults. Check out our article on Winter Wellness and Healthy Habits for the Season.
Discuss your medications with your doctor. Some medications affect your balance and may leave you more susceptible to falls. Your doctor may adjust your medications over winter or discuss how to mitigate the risks. They may suggest that you use a walking stick or cane over winter to support your balance.
Have your vision checked. Falls are more likely if you have trouble seeing snow and ice.
Ask for help in keeping your home safe and clear of snow and ice. Many older adults fall by trying to keep their sidewalks clear themselves.
When you walk outside, keep your phone on you, and walk with a partner if possible. If you suffer a fall, it’s important that someone can find you as soon as possible.
The CDC says that millions of people 65 and older fall every year, and winter makes falls more common. Regardless of your age, snow and ice can cause falls, which leads to injuries like broken bones.
To prevent a fall this winter, slow down and be aware of your surroundings. With a little caution, you can stay safe.
Physical Therapy After a Fall Injury in Everett
However, if you do fall, go to your doctor to get treated. They may also refer you to a physical therapist like those at Everett Spine and Rehab. Physical therapy can help with injuries like those sustained from falling and aims to help you get back to normal!