During the winter, Emergency Departments tend to see more injuries from slipping and falling due to icy and snowy conditions. Health expert, Nurse Rose Melendez, RN, head of the Emergency Department and Nursing Administration at Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital, offers her advice on preventing dangerous falls this winter.

Why is fall prevention in the winter important? 

Nurse Rose: It may sound like no big deal, but falls can cause serious injuries. And in the winter, with ice and snow, even the most coordinated person can slip and hurt themselves.

Falls can cause:

  • Broken bones like wrist, arm, ankle and hip fractures,
  • Sprains and strains,
  • Head injuries, and
  • Bruising

Who is most likely to hurt themselves from a fall?

Nurse Rose: The elderly are significantly more likely than younger people to fall and become injured due to problems that become more common as we age. This includes muscle weakness in the legs, trouble balancing, high or low blood pressure, difficulty seeing and sensory problems.

In fact, 2.8 million people ages 65 and older are treated in the emergency department for fall injuries each year – and one in five of those falls cause serious injury.

Keep these tips in mind, especially if you are over 65 or care for an elderly loved one.

  • Keep walkways, stairways and other areas clear.
  • Remove hazards like water on floors and snow on sidewalks immediately.
  • When walking, look where you are going and have your hands ready to steady yourself if you slip.
  • Avoid carrying heavy loads that compromise your balance.
  • Keep a cell phone on you in case you fall alone and need help.

What can we do to avoid falls when it’s snowy or icy?

Nurse Rose: Any person, regardless of age, becomes more susceptible to fall in winter weather. Keep these tips in mind if you must walk in snow or ice.

  • Wear footwear with heavy treads.
  • Walk along grassy areas if the walkway is icy.
  • Make yourself visible to drivers by wearing a brightly colored coat.
  • Take short steps, walk at a slower pace and bend your knees a little.
  • Carry kitty litter or salt in your car in case of an unexpected snow/ice storm.

What should you do if you do fall and suspect a serious injury?

Nurse Rose: Call for help immediately and seek medical care if you think you’ve hurt yourself. If you are feeling disoriented or unable to move, call 9-1-1.

Need emergency care? Adventist HealthCare has you covered – with three Emergency Departments and three Urgent Care centers in Montgomery County.

Additional Health Tips from Rose

Find more family health tips online or tune into WGTS 91.9 FM every Wednesday at 7:40 a.m. to hear Rose live.