Wintertime can be a busy time for the Emergency Trauma Center at Trinity Hospital, mainly because of the winter conditions.
“The most common injury we see at Trinity Health during the winter – and all year round – is falls,” said Amber Emerson, RN, injury prevention specialist with Trinity Health’s Trauma Services. “People are in a hurry. Slips and trips are most common and even more so in the winter time, with ice and snow on the ground.”
While some injuries may result in a simple bump or bruise, they could lead to more severe injuries, Amber said.
From October 2018 to March 2019, over 90 percent of patients with snow- or ice-related falls seen at Trinity Health’s Emergency Room resulted in a fracture.
While walking in a winter wonderland can be hazardous, there are other winter injury-related circumstances to note:
Described as “the silent killer” due to its odorless and colorless presence, carbon monoxide can be a danger. Every year, over 400 people die and 50,000 are treated for carbon monoxide poisoning, the National Safety Council says.
“Proper maintenance is necessary for any appliance requiring fuel – gasoline, propane, wood, natural gas, etc. – to function,” Amber said. According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating and cooking equipment in the home that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide, as are vehicles or generators running in an attached garage.
Carbon monoxide detectors save lives. The National Fire Protection Association advises homeowners to install carbon monoxide detectors in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home.
Amber adds that batteries in carbon monoxide detectors, as well as smoke detectors, should be changed every six months.
When it comes to frostbite, the wind chill plays a large role.
“The colder the ‘real feel’ temperature, the faster frostbite can occur,” Amber said. “When temperatures drop below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, it is possible for frostbite to occur within five minutes to exposed skin.”
It is best to be prepared, including covering exposed skin, “even when you’re not expecting to be outside long, such as when walking to the mailbox or across a parking lot,” she said.
Shoveling and Snowblowing Injuries
Shoveling snow and using a snowblower are among winter’s most grueling activities. High levels of activity in cold temperatures put many people at risk of heart attack, especially those with inactive lifestyles.
And, as mentioned, there is the threat of frostbite if you are doing this without wearing proper clothing. Kevin Franks, MD, an emergency medicine physician with Trinity Health’s Emergency Trauma Center, advised wearing layers of clothes, including warm, insulated gloves, two pairs of socks, and gloves that are water proof. “If you start noticing symptoms, get inside quickly to warm up,” he said.
Avoid Injuries While Enjoying the Winter Weather
Whether you are skiing, snowboarding, sledding, or skating, take safety precautions like learning basic skills or using the appropriate gear for the sport.