Tips to Avoid Winter Falls!
December is rapidly approaching, and for those of you counting, Christmas is a mere 35 days away! And while we all hope for that picture perfect ‘White Christmas’ to make us feel as though we are singing along with Bing Crosby, with that snow comes icy roads and sidewalks, and the unfortunate inevitability of slips and falls.
And while winter can be arguably one of the prettiest times of year, it also means we need to be cautious and take some preventative measures to help ensure we don’t suffer a tragic fall on an icy sidewalk that can lead to not only bumps, bruises, and scrapes, but can also lead to broken bones, whiplash, concussion, or traumatic brain injury. It is my hope to educate you on some measures to take to prevent a winter fall so you can continue to enjoy the glory that Winter brings us!
- First, realize that during the winter, it is highly possible for sidewalks, roads, parking lots etc to be icy. Keeping that in mind, be observant as you are walking so you can see if there is an area that appears ice covered so you can respond accordingly. This means no texting and walking!
- One of the best first steps to take is to equip yourself with proper winter walking footwear. This means a boot or walking shoe that is made of softer rubber with good treads on it. The softer rubber and treads will allow for better grip on snow and ice. This also means avoiding high heels or other more unstable footwear in these conditions! Lucky for us, they are now making stylish winter boots!
- Keep your head up! Again, this means no texting and walking!
- Keep your hands out of your pockets! Having your hands out of your pockets means you can use your arms to help you balance to prevent a fall. And, in the case of a fall having your hands out of your pockets means you can brace your fall with your hands (instead of your face)
- Walk with a wide base of support (think about walking with your feet about hip width apart-like a penguin!). This again increases our balance, and ability to react to a change in under-foot conditions.
- Walk slowly (do the shuffle!) By walking slower our body weight will remain on top of our feet, which is again another way of increasing stability! And, if a surface looks extra slippery, there is nothing wrong with shuffling along to help increase your balance!
- Use handrails when available. Chances are the handrails were put there for a reason, and the reason was to be used for extra support! There is no shame in putting your hand on that handrail when going down stairs or up a slippery slope- that’s what it’s there for!
- Try not to carry too many things that might cause you to lose your balance. If you are carrying something, try carrying it close to your body to increase stability.
Tips for preventing ice from forming around your home:
- Try and clear the snow ASAP. By removing snow from the sidewalk before too many people can walk on it, the chances of ice forming below are reduced.
- If you weren’t able to clear snow before it was walked on, no problem. Apply some gravel or sidewalk salt to the affected areas. The gravel will provided added grip, while the salt will help the ice melt. In Calgary there are several locations set up where you can pick up a sand/salt mixture to use on any public sidewalks around your home (all you need to do is bring your own bucket!). Here is a link to the locations where you can pick up the mixture
- If you aren’t able to physically clear the snow/ice yourself, ask somebody else to help you! Whether it’s a neighbour, a family member, or hiring help, ensuring the walkways are cleared is important in preventing winter falls.
As always, consult your health care practitioner if you have experienced a fall, or if you have further questions about fall prevention.