Keep Your Footing in This Cold Front!

    With the holidays finished and a new year underway, we are facing a huge cold front with extreme fluctuations of temperatures across the nation. One day it’s a balmy 54 the next it’s 13. And although this gives us license to a snug fireplace and warm cups of cider, it could also mean snow on the ground or even worse…Ice. [1]

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    Every year in the winter months our Emergency Departments are bombarded with fall injuries related to ice and snow. While sometimes these are minor scrapes and bruises, these falls can also result in sprains, strains and fractures!

**** The most common injury that results from a slippery mishap is a fractured ankle!****

            Since lack of friction is the root cause for slipping on ice, efforts should be made to wear a good quality shoe or boot with adequate tread. Leather, slick bottom boots and high heels should also be avoided. Patients with Diabetes and poor circulation (Raynaud’s) should avoid prolonged exposure to the cold and be sure to wear warm insulated foot gear and socks. Avoiding excessive caffeine and smoking also helps poor circulation! Finally, diabetics should be extra wary of the cold and injuries from heavy snow boots as well as any bumps or abrasions to the lower extremity.

***Diabetics should NOT soak their feet in hot water to warm them!!!****

    Another common mistake is not wearing socks at all. A patient may think that their “Uggs” that are lined with faux fur will keep them warm, but when their feet begin to sweat…that wetness can, and most likely will, lead to frostbite!!!

Tips for Avoiding Falls

-    Walk with your weight in the center of your body. This will avoid a staggering gait and help provide a more solid footstep and thus more traction.

-    Be careful when exiting vehicles!

-    Always use handrails when provided.

-    Inside buildings can be just as treacherous due to melting snow and ice.

-    Don’t spend too long out in the cold if you can avoid it. Numb feet are more likely to be banged around and abused without noticing!

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    There are plenty of ways to reduce your risk for a fall but one of the most important is ICE AND SNOW, TAKE IT SLOW. This “mantra” will help you think deliberately about your footsteps and provide you with a soundness of mind when trekking across your slippery sidewalks and driveways.


[2] Fractures and other injuries from falls after an ice storm.

Smith RW, Nelson DR. Am J Emerg Med. 1998 Jan;16(1):52-5.