The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

December 23, 2013

Speaking of Health: Watch out for winter health mishaps

Risk of falls, frostbite, illness come with winter

Snow, ice and the arctic-chilled air that engulfs Minnesotans from November to March adds an unwanted layer of difficulty to life. But the problems winter poses don’t stop at inconvenience — there are major health concerns to be aware of and attempt to prevent as well.

Here are a few common potential health issues to watch out for throughout the next few months.

Slips and falls

Slips and falls account for nearly 9 million unintentional injuries in the United States each year, per the National Safety Council. Most slips and falls occur at building entrances, on lawns, in parking lots and garages, and inside of walkways.

Watch out for uneven ground, protruding structures, holes, and debris that can cause slips, trips and falls. Also, be aware of ice- and snow-packed surfaces — they increase the risk of falling.

Some tips for preventing slips and falls:

• Wear the right shoes. Properly fitted shoes increase comfort, reduce fatigue and improve safety.

• Take your time. If you notice that the floor or ground doesn’t have much traction, walk slow and be careful with each step.

• Walk safely. Walk with your feet slightly pointed forward and try the “shuffle step” to prevent slips, trips and falls. Watch our video to learn more.

Frostbite

Having cold extremities is one thing, but frostbite is a whole different condition. And it’s a very serious one. The first step to preventing frostbite is to know when you’re most at risk. Your risk is elevated if you smoke, have a blood vessel disease like diabetes, aren’t wearing proper clothing, are dehydrated or fatigued, and if you’re at a higher altitude.

Once aware of your level of risk, take these measures to prevent frostbite:

• Cover your ears, face, head and nose

• Wear proper boots or shoes — no sandals or open-toed shoes

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