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The cold winter weather brings with it snow and ice—and the possibility of slip and fall accidents. Whether it’s ice on the sidewalk, a slick step or a light layer of ice on top of the snow, icy patches lurk everywhere during the cold months. And while a slip and fall might not seem like that big of a deal, you could end up with more than just a bruise.
“Falling at any age brings the risk of twisting an ankle, breaking a foot or wrist, or more serious injuries like a concussion or breaking a hip - but that risk increases as we age,” said John Keeley, Clinical Education Specialist at Inspira Balance Center.
“The fall may be a signal that something is throwing off your balance, and you could possibly be suffering from a vestibular disorder,” said Keeley. “Vestibular disorders and falls often lead to decreased mobility, due to fear of falling or an injury due to a fall. This can also accelerate other health complications and comorbidities.”
Falls are the leading cause of injury and injury death in people over 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In addition to age, certain medications, lower body weakness, vision problems and foot pain can also put you at risk for falls.
To lower your risk of falls, there are several things you can do:
- Keep entranceways, sidewalks and driveways clear.
Shovel snow, salt the ground and keep walkways clear during bad weather to provide a safe place to walk. You may want to make arrangements with a neighbor, friend or loved one to help you clear paths.
- Dress appropriately.
Wear shoes or boots with good traction—winter is not the time for dress shoes. Wear gloves and a coat if you are going outside for any amount of time.
- Walk cautiously and allow yourself extra time to move.
“Walk with your arms out to balance yourself, and avoid putting your hands in your pockets,” said Keeley.
- Always use handrails, if they’re available.
Hold the rail firmly to steady yourself.
- Test surfaces first before stepping.
Tap your foot over an area to test if it’s icy before stepping onto it. This is especially important when using steps or getting out of your car.
If you have a cell phone, carry it with you at all times in case of a fall.
“If you do fall, stop and take a breath to calm yourself down. Then, determine if you are injured or not,” said Keeley. “If you are hurt, ask someone for help, or, if you’re alone and have a cell phone, call 9-1-1.”
Seek medical care immediately, even if you don’t feel hurt. “Some injuries don’t emerge for a day or two, so it’s best to get a checkup—especially if you hit your head,” said Keeley.
Whether you have fallen in the past or you are preparing for this winter, it may also be helpful to take part in a fall prevention program. At Inspira’s Balance Centers, a provider can assess your balance and develop a treatment plan to help you improve your balance and prevent future falls.