12/18/2017 Everyday Winter Hazards: How to Stay Safe, Warm—and Covered
Alli Walsh, Social Media Strategist
Everyday Winter Hazards: How to Stay Safe, Warm—and Covered
Love the winter? Great! Get out and enjoy the beautiful snow. Just be careful. Consider these stats:
- In 2015, over 56,000 people were injured while snowmobiling, snowboarding and ice skating and required treatments in emergency rooms.1
- 11,500 emergency department visits are related to snow shoveling each year.2
- In 2014, there were 42,840 work injuries involving ice, sleet or snow.3
Winter fun can be hazardous due to slippery ice, decreased visibility and cold temperatures. Here are a few reminders to stay safe:
When it comes to walking down the street or over to the ice fishing hole, take note of these guidelines4:
- For stability, take short steps or even shuffle your feet
- Bend slightly forward and walk flat-footed with your center of gravity directly over your feet
- Keep your hands out of your pockets so they’re free to help you balance in case of a slip—but avoid using outstretched arms to brace yourself if you go down
- Fall with sequential contacts at your thigh, hip and shoulder and bend your back and head forward to avoid hitting your head against the ground
If you can’t bear the treadmill and take to the sidewalks or streets for your daily run, the following precautions will help keep you safe5:
- Avoid running at night—head out while it’s still light and in the warmer times of the day
- Be prepared for internal temperature changes—layer hats, gloves and a long-sleeve shirt under your jacket; dress like it’s 15-20 degrees warmer so you don’t overheat and perspire too much
- Avoid getting chilled by wind, especially if you’re perspiring—strategically route your runs so you can keep your back to wind
- Don’t leave home without a water bottle—as always, stay well hydrated
According to a 17 year study, the most common injuries from shoveling snow are2:
- Soft tissue injuries
Of these, the most serious are the cardiac-related injuries. When the temperature falls, the cold air restricts blood vessels. At the same time, the workload of the heart increases with the work of moving the snow. These factors can combine to have a deadly affect.6 Stay safer shoveling snow by:
- Doing a lite warmup first
- Pace yourself
- Push the snow, don’t lift
- Dress for the job6
Or, better yet, hire someone to plough it for you!
Body temperature safety
Hypothermia—subnormal body temperature that, when not treated, can lead to death—is the #1 killer of recreationists. It’s not only a danger when outdoor temperatures are low, as most cases develop in air temperatures between 30 and 50 degrees.7
To prevent hypothermia, dress in layers and wear wicking undergarments so your skin is never pressed up against wet fabric (e.g. sweaty cotton). Follow common sense precautions like keeping up your energy while outdoors, carrying food if you need to and taking time to rest; and staying out of wind and rain.
The first step of hypothermia is exposure, when your body starts losing heat faster than it creates heat and both voluntary and involuntary efforts to stay warm lead you to exhaustion. It’s at this point that cold reaches the brain, so be sure to watch for these symptoms in yourself and others5:
- Uncontrollable fits of shivering
- Vague, slow, slurred speech
- Memory lapses, incoherence
- Immobile, fumbling hands
- Frequent stumbling or a lurching gait
- Drowsiness—to sleep is to die
- Apparent exhaustion, inability to get up after a rest
If you identify any of these symptoms, get yourself or your companion out of the elements, including the wind and rain. Remove any wet clothes and rub the person vigorously to generate body heat. Get them into dry clothes and have them sip warm non-alcoholic liquids. It’s always good practice to get professional medical care when possible, during or after the incident.
Accident coverage: just in case!
Regardless of the season, a supplemental accident plan can be a financial stress-reducer in case an unexpected injury occurs while enjoying the great outdoors. If you or a family member has a covered accident and ends up getting treatment in the emergency room, your accident policy may help you manage expenses that may or may not be covered by your underlying major medical plan. In fact, your policy’s cash benefit is sent directly to you to use however you deem appropriate: to help cover deductibles or other out-of-pocket medical expenses, or even everyday living expenses. Learn more in Evaluate Readiness for the Financial Impact of an Accident.
More of a summer person? Don’t miss 4 Ways to Stay Safe and Healthy All Summer Long.
Accident Insurance is underwritten by Combined Insurance Company America (Chicago, Il). In New York, this coverage is underwritten by Combined Life Insurance Company of New York (Latham, NY). Exclusions and limitations apply, see policy for complete details.
1 Facts Statistics: Sports injuries. (n.d.). Retrieved December 15, 2017, from https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-sports-injuries.
2 (n.d.). Retrieved December 15, 2017, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110118101356.htm.
3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, 42,480 work injuries involved ice, sleet, or snow in 2014 on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2016/42480-work-injuries-involved-ice-sleet-or-snow-in-2014.htm. (visited December 15, 2017).
4 Helpful Hints When Walking on Snow or Ice. (n.d.). Retrieved December 15, 2017, from https://www.ehs.iastate.edu/prep/weather/winter/walking.
5 Hadfield, J. (2007, December 20). Winter Running Tips. Retrieved December 15, 2017, from https://www.active.com/running/articles/winter-running-tips?page=1.
6 Why Is Shoveling Snow So Dangerous? (2016, January 26). Retrieved December 15, 2017, from https://weather.com/safety/winter/news/dangers-of-snow-shoveling.
7 (n.d.). Retrieved December 15, 2017, from https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/fishlake/learning/safety-ethics/?cid=fsm9_019907#hypothermia.
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