Safety tips to avoid common winter injuries

By Kelsey Guthmiller, trauma program manager at Riverwood Healthcare Center

During the winter months, there are many risks every day for sustaining a traumatic injury. Here are a few winter-specific causes of injuries or fatalities along with prevention safety tips.

Cold/Hypothermia and Frostbite: Exposure to cold temperatures for long periods of time can cause the body’s temperature to drop to a lethal level. When the body gets too cold (below 95 degrees Fahrenheit for a core temperature), it can cause drowsiness, loss of consciousness, organ damage, blood clotting difficulties, and even cardiac arrest at colder temperatures.

Frostbite from prolonged skin exposure to cold air can also cause health problems. Frostbite is considered a burn or thermal injury that causes damage to tissues, nerves, and circulation of the frostbitten extremity or area. These injuries can lead to painful wounds, infection, tissue necrosis, and even amputation when the frostbite is severe enough.

Seek medical attention right away if you experience severe frostbite. When it’s very cold outside, dress in layers and cover hands, arms, legs, feet and face appropriately.

Falls: Falls are always an issue but even more so with the accumulation of snow and ice. Wear boots or appropriate footwear with good treads and use methods for stability when walking, such as handrails, canes, walkers, or a helpful hand. Go slow and take your time when walking on snow or ice.

Ice thickness: Be sure to check the ice thickness when partaking in the Minnesota ice fishing season. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recommends at LEAST 4 inches of ice for foot traffic.  It also recommends 20 inches of ice for a heavy-duty truck with a wheelhouse shelter.

Snowmobile safety: Last year in Minnesota, the DNR reported a total of 122 snowmobile accidents with six total fatalities. While being out on the trails is a great form of recreation in our snow-covered state, keep in mind these safety tips. Wear a fitted Helmet. Take appropriate snowmobile safety course to learn the laws and regulations in our state. Be sure to drive on the correct side of the road. Snowmobilers should follow traffic on either side of the road in marked trails. Never use alcohol and operate vehicles, which slows the reaction time to avoid obstacles and other riders.

In the event of a bone fracture or muscle injuries, Riverwood offers same-day orthopaedic care in Aitkin. Simply call 218-927-5181 for an appointment, Monday through Friday.

Educate yourself and your family about potential incidents and accidents that can occur during the winter season to enhance preparation to prevent them. Follow these winter injury prevention tips and enjoy a happy and safe winter season.