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  • Writer's pictureIEP Urgent Care

Three important ways to stay safe in cold weather

Winter in Michigan can be both glorious and treacherous. Here are three important ways to cope with the cold and avoid injury:

Protect your skin from wind/sun damage and frostbite. Dress in layers, protect your head and face and wear winter weather socks and shoes. Your fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks, and chin are the most vulnerable areas of your body, so keep them covered. Bundle up accordingly and minimize or eliminate any exposed skin based on conditions. If it’s a snowy and sunny day, wear sunscreen and sunglasses. The light of the sun reflects on the snow, increasing its strength. If you are outside in below freezing weather and you have exposed skin, at some point you will begin to experience frostnip, with is the very early stage of frostbite. If you experience a tingling or numbness sensation, you have frostnip. Go inside immediately to prevent further damage. Seek medical attention immediately if you show any signs of hypothermia or frostbite. We tend to take temperature seriously only when we see single digits. But any temperature below freezing can be damaging to your skin. “It’s safe to be outside if the temperature is 32°F or above,” says David A. Gruener, MD, FACS, co-founder and director of NYC Surgical. “If the temperature falls between 13°F and 31°F, you should take breaks from the cold approximately every 20 to 30 minutes. If wind chill temperatures are 13°F and below, you should remain indoors.”

Walk like a penguin. Several years ago Canadian public television produced a video showing how “walking like a penguin” helps prevent a nasty slip and fall when walking on icy or slippery pavement. Bend slightly, spread your legs wider than normal and try to keep your center of gravity over your feet as much as possible. Take shorter, shuffling steps and you will feel a better sense of balance on slippery surfaces. Slips and falls can be quite serious, so if you think walking like a penguin looks ridiculous, consider the alternative. If you injure yourself in a slip and fall, IEP Urgent Care can provide an immediate diagnosis with our on-site digital x-ray capabilities. Based on the severity of the injury, we can offer treatment or recommend immediate follow up care.

Don’t overdo it. According to a recent article in USA Today, an estimated 200,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for shoveling over-exertion from 1990-2006.

If you are over 45, smoke, or have any heart or other health issues, consider not manually shoveling your driveway, especially when the snow is wet and heavy. Even using a gas powered snow blower, combined with below freezing temperatures, can cause health issues. If you must shovel your driveway with a shovel, make it as easy as possible. Start by pushing a path through the middle of your driveway. Then, push snow to each side from the middle. Take frequent breaks.



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