Safety Tips for Winter


When the weather becomes stormy and wet, everyone should be on guard for the various winter hazards that occur in their area. Some winter hazards include cold, ice, snow, flooding, wind and fog.1 Whether or not you are a patient on warfarin, you will want to be aware of what to look out for to prevent injuries and the chances of bruising or bleeding. 

Snow and Ice 

Parking lots and sidewalks can present a hazard even if there is only a small amount of snow or ice. While most establishments do a good job of keeping the grounds around them free of ice, it is easy for areas like parking lots to be overlooked. Cars driving over pavement can temporarily melt snow, but in cold weather that water can quickly freeze back into ice.1 You should also be aware of wet leaves that can accumulate on the ground in stormy weather and can easily make the ground slippery. Make sure to use caution when exiting your car to avoid slipping and falling.

Floor mats used in stores can be helpful by keeping the floors from getting too slippery. However, they can bunch up, making it easy to catch your foot on a corner. The best way to take on wet weather is by wearing boots or shoes with rubber soles or treads for good traction on these common slippery surfaces. If you are attending formal events where boots may not match your style, bring your slick-bottomed dress shoes to change into when you arrive. 

Sometimes the weather in winter can even make winter chores hazardous. If you live in an area that gets a decent snow fall, shoveling snow can be risky. Nationwide, the act of snow shoveling is responsible for thousands of injuries and as many as 100 deaths every year.2 While this may seem unbelievable, if you have a heart condition think about these facts before you pick up that snow shovel. Cold weather can increase your heart rate, increase your blood pressure and constrict your arteries. These conditions can make your blood more likely to clot and decrease your blood supply to areas in your body. The action of picking up a shovel and moving pounds of snow in this state, particularly if you have not been as physically active in the last few months, can put a major strain on your heart.2 Speak with your doctor before engaging in winter chores like shoveling and, should you feel a tightness in your chest, dizziness or faint, stop immediately. 

Fighting the Cold 

There are times the weather in the winter can be just incredibly cold. More than 1,300 people die each year from the condition of hypothermia.1 Hypothermia happens in cold weather and can start when your body’s core temperature goes below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Frostbite, the condition of body tissue freezing, can develop on exposed skin when the temperature is below freezing.1 Wind can make frostbite occur even quicker, particularly when combined with a below freezing temperature. The best tip is to remember to dress for the weather, making sure to wear layers of loose, warm clothing. When outside, make sure your outermost layer is water repellent and covering the parts of your body most sensitive to cold including your hands, feet, head and face.1 Hypothermia can also occur inside your house. Keep your thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer to prevent the outside chill from getting into your living space. 

While cold weather can be handled with heating devices, be aware of the potential of the final hazard of winter: carbon monoxide poisoning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400 Americas die each year from unintentional carbon monoxide poison, with the prime time being during the winter months.2 The poisonous gas is made when burning fuel in cars, trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, portable generators or furnaces. The symptoms of poisoning can easily be mistaken for the flu.2 As the weather gets even colder, make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home. 

The winter months can be hazardous to your health, but there are many ways you can prevent accidents from occurring. Along with these winter tips, ask your physician about other ways to protect yourself during this time of year. Being both aware and prepared can help you to enjoy some of the fun that can also come with winter. 

References:

  1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Winter is a Killer: Simple Steps to Stay Safe. www.nws.noaa.gov. Retrieved December 6, 2016 from the website: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/winter_safety.html.
  2. National Safety Council. Winter Safety Tips. www.nsc.org. 2016. Retrieved from the website: http://www.nsc.org/learn/pages/safety-events-winter-safety.aspx