Slipping and falling is not only mildly embarrassing, it is also a huge risk for injury (especially amongst seniors). So when winter hits and the snow and ice start forming, we need to take extra precautions to ensure our safety. Here are a few easy things to do to reduce your risk of a slip and fall injury.
- Be prepared early. It’s a good idea to start prepping your walking areas before the snow actually falls. Thin layers of salt or liquid ice control products spread on surfaces can stop the snow or ice from bonding to the ground. Don’t use too much though! Follow the directions carefully and double check to see if what you are using is environmentally safe.
- Be aware that under snow, there is usually ice. Even if the nice kids from down the street offer to shovel your driveway for $10, they probably won’t be able to chip away at the thin layer of ice that rests under the snow. In fact, they may not even see it. On very porous surfaces (where the ice can form in the ground rather than on top of it) you may not see an obvious patch of ice, but the ground will still be slippery and increase your risk of falling. So just remember, even if you don’t see snow on the ground, that doesn’t mean the risk of falling is gone.
- Wear the correct shoes. If we could all own a pair of those big winter boots with the spikes on the bottom, then we wouldn’t have a need for this article, but that’s just not practical. What is practical is getting a solid pair of shoes or boots to wear when walking on snow and ice. Materials such as rubber or neoprene composites can grip slippery surfaces better. Materials like leather and plastic cannot. Look for soles that have texture and wide, deep cleats. Even if you are headed to a fancy event, wear your boots and change into your dress shoes when you get to the venue. The hassle of changing shoes is easier to deal with than the hassle of a long recovery from a falling injury.
- Focus on your feet. Penguins are the best at walking on ice because of their waddle. Keep your body upright and lean slightly forward to keep your center of gravity directly over your feet. Take small steps and shuffle over particularly slippery surfaces. Overall, GO SLOW! Take care when getting into or out of vehicles, going up or down stairs, or walking from one surface to another. Keep your hands free and out of your pockets. The ability to use your arms to keep your balance is imperative for walking on slippery surfaces.
- Be aware of inside risk too. Just because you make it from your car to the door without falling does not mean the risk ends there. Tracked in snow and ice can melt and puddle around the inside of entrances. Look for large absorbent mats to help get the snow and ice off of your own shoes safely. If there aren’t any in that establishment, perhaps politely suggest that they invest in some. You also want to make sure you clean up any ice melt products you may have tracked in as they can damage inside flooring.
Avoiding winter weather is impossible, but being prepared and taking steps to ensure your safety is not. While we love seeing all our wonderful patients, we would rather help you avoid falling and injuring yourself in the first place than have to treat an injury later. So take care, bundle up, be prepared, and remember to walk like a penguin.