Staying healthy and safe in the winter requires some extra caution.
“The main concern for most is falls, especially for older adults,” says Dr. Nisar Amin, internal medicine physician at Pleasant Valley Hospital’s Regional Health Center. “That means taking extra precautions to make sure sidewalks and stairs around our home are kept as clear as possible from ice and snow.”
Older people especially are prone to more serious injuries from falls, like broken hips. If possible, they should stay indoors during inclement weather and ask someone to spread salt or sand on icy surfaces used to access their home.
Regardless of your age, whenever you do go out in snowy or icy weather, be sure to wear boots with good traction.
“Shoveling is something that must be done in the winter, but for some people it can be a hazard of the season. If you are older or out of shape, it’s best to get someone else to do your shoveling, if possible,” Dr. Amin says.
“If you are able to shovel your own driveway and walkways, it’s important to use due caution to stay safe,” he says.
If you are going to shovel, Dr. Amin advises:
– Start by warming up your muscles first.
– Use a small shovel or shovel smaller amounts of snow, to make things easier on your back and your heart.
– Bring your cell phone any time you go outside, so you can call for help if you need it.
“Shoveling is not good exercise,” Dr. Amin cautions. “It is extremely strenuous. It can boost your blood pressure significantly and quickly, causing strokes and heart attacks. If you want to get exercise in the winter, there are many better options.”
Those who want to spend time outdoors in the winter have many good options for getting exercise.
Walking or hiking with the proper footwear, sledding, or playing outdoors in the snow are all are family-friendly ways to stay active outside.
“Just remember to warm up before any exercise”, Dr. Amin says.
And no matter what you are choosing to do, always dress in layers – as temperatures can change quickly – and exercising will cause you to warm up.
Make sure you also have adequate coverage of your face, hands and feet if the temperatures are low to avoid the potential of frostbite.
“Another winter safety tip is to always let someone know where you’re going to be”, Dr. Amin says.
Seek Medical Help If You Need It
Whether having fun or doing chores, some of us are bound to get injured or have health problems.
“If you are shoveling or exerting yourself and you experience unexpected sweatiness, unexplained nausea, shortness of breath or chest pain, stop what you’re doing,” Dr. Amin says. “Move carefully to a warmer area and if someone is nearby, ask them to call 911 for you.”
Winter can, and should, be fun, especially when taking the precautions necessary to keep yourself safer and healthier.
Should you need immediate medical care, Pleasant Valley Hospital’s Emergency Room is always open – 24 hours a day – 7 days a week.