When the air turns cold and damp, we bundle up in coats, hats, scarves, warm boots, and our favorite silly sweater. With all these layers, you’d think that slips and falls would have us bouncing like a beachball. But we know that every season comes with unique illnesses and injuries brought about by temperature, activities, and lifestyle factors. If you’ve fallen victim to winter woes and need to get back on your feet, give Dr. Chani Henderson at Family & Sports Chiropractic Clinic a call today.
As can be expected, many winter injuries are weather-related. We slip on ice, in puddles, or carrying everything from the Thanksgiving turkey to armloads of Christmas presents. Hypothermia and frostbite, for example, are rare but become a higher risk after alcohol consumption, or for children and the elderly. But there are other, perhaps less obvious, issues which can arise during the holidays.
The Medical College of Wisconsin says that “the risk for carbon monoxide poisoning increases in the winter due to an increased use of fume-producing products like fireplaces, furnaces and kerosene heaters. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, have your home heating system inspected every winter and make sure any fuel-burning devices, like heaters or gasoline generators, are properly ventilated. If you have a fireplace, clean your chimney and flue annually. Do not ‘warm up’ your car in a garage, as this can lead to a build-up of carbon monoxide.”
They also warn of an annual increase in heart attacks. “Shoveling snow or using a snow blower can be strenuous work, especially for someone whose heart may not be used to that amount or type of exercise. If you have one or more risk factors for heart disease, avoid overexerting yourself in cold weather.” Their doctors advise that if you or someone you love is having shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, nausea, or other symptoms, you should call 911 right away.
For all you slightly bonkers (you know who you are) all-weather athletes, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons explains that “Common winter sports injuries include sprains, strains, dislocations, and fractures. Many of these injuries happen at the end of the day, when people overexert themselves to finish that one last run before the day’s end. Most winter sports injuries can easily be prevented if participants prepare for their sport by keeping in good physical condition, staying alert, and stopping when they are tired or in pain.”
If someone has slipped and fallen and you think they may have hit their head, whether or not they passed out as a result, the CDC provides a list of concussion symptoms to be aware of. These include more obvious things like headaches, dizziness, and sensitivity to bright light or loud noises. But they can also be anxiety, fatigue, attention problems, sadness, listlessness, and nausea. If your family member has slurred speech, a headache that gets worse, excessive vomiting, or other severe symptoms, call 911 or go to the emergency room right away.
To stay safe in winter, Ready.gov suggests remaining home and off the roads as much as possible when storms and ice are a factor. Limit your time outside and avoid overexertion when you must go outdoors during icy weather. If you have a generator for back-up power, make sure your home also has working carbon monoxide detectors and always use the generator outdoors and away from the home.
Exercise instead by climbing stairs, either at home or the office. Join your neighborhood gym or YMCA. Warm up and cool down before any workout to get your muscles ready. Wear warm layers and proper shoes. If there’s a storm brewing, consider an online or YouTube exercise video that can be done from home. Drink plenty of fluids.
If you’re walking, running, hiking, or heading outdoors for longer periods, note the forecast and even expected windchill factors. Skiers and snowboarders need to break out their summer stash of sunscreen. And everyone should either stick with a buddy or tell loved ones where you’ll be no matter what.
The holidays keep us busy. Battle stressful holiday emotions, financial strain, party overeating, seasonal affective disorder, and stay sane with exercise. It’s been proven to benefit mood, sleep, and all those extra cookies you taste-tested along the way. And don’t worry, if you do slip, trip, fall, or aggravate an old injury, Dr. Henderson will be with you every step of the way. Especially if you bring along a few of those Christmas cookies.