Slips and falls on ice and snow are a common occurrence in the winter. Injuries from slips and falls are normally minor but can also be very serious. Common injuries from slips and falls on ice and snow are bruises and sometimes fractures. But spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries can also occur.
After a fall on the ice, if you are having significant pain or difficulties focusing your attention or thinking, you should seek medical care.
There are things we can do to help us avoid slips and falls on the ice and snow. The best thing to do is avoid the ice, but if you need to cross a patch of ice or slippery surface, then the best way to walk is like a penguin, which means to bend slightly and walk flat-footed; point your feet slightly out; take shorter, shuffle-like steps; watch where you are stepping; keep your arms at your sides, and keep your center of gravity over your feet as much of possible.
The best footwear is those with rubber soles that are flat and waffled. These provide better traction. Shoes with heels and leather shoes should be avoided as they do not provide good traction. When entering a building, make sure to wipe your feet and watch out for slippery floors.
Be careful when transitioning from one type of surface to another and don’t step out as your foot may slide. Avoid using cell phones while walking in icy conditions and avoid jogging outside if ice is present. Wear hats and gloves that can protect you if you fall. If you have to drive when it is icy, plan the best route, plan on taking a little extra time, and avoid rushing and taking shortcuts over areas where snow and ice removal is incomplete.
There are also some things you can do to help protect yourself if you are going to fall. Be prepared to fall. If you are falling forward, try to twist and roll to your shoulder so you don’t plant your face on the pavement. This can also help prevent elbow and wrist injuries as you try to catch yourself.
If something is in your hands when you fall, drop it immediately to protect yourself rather than what you are carrying – unless of course, it’s a baby! If you are falling backward, try to land in a seated position, bending your back and head forward in an effort to prevent slamming the back of your head on the pavement. After a fall, call 911 or seek medical assistance if you feel like you are injured – particularly if you hit your head.
Candice Hutchins is an RN at the Health West Pediatrics clinic. She has been a nurse for seventeen years with most of her experience in Postpartum and well-baby nursery.