When the weather turns colder, we must not forget some of the dangers that can come with it. The winter months can bring plummeting temperatures, alongside ice, snow and falling leaves, which can all increase the risk of a fall. As much as we would all like to continue with our daily plans and activities as normal, it is important to be mindful of the weather conditions before venturing outside. There are many steps that can be taken to reduce the chances of a fall during a cold snap, both around the house and whilst out and about.
Dr Christina Heaton. Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Consultant Nurse for Falls and Bone Health offers some advice for the public: “As for all of us, the risk of falls increases when the weather is cold especially when there is ice on the ground. We all need to be mindful of this and take more care.
“There is added risk for people who are older and frailer. If they were to fall there is likely to be a bigger impact on their overall health, whether that be physically through injury or mentally and emotionally through loss of confidence and an increase in anxiety.
“Isolation is a concern and risk also. With the bad weather, people are more likely to stay indoors and disengage from the community. Whilst this may well be the safest option at times, we want to encourage people to stay active and engaged in community activities so as not to become isolated.”
Some tips to help reduce the risk of falls include:
- Going out in the daytime to avoid frost as much as possible
- Using handrails when out and about and avoid using ramps unless necessary
- Making sure you have enough food at home, such as bread and milk, so you don’t have to go out in bad weather
- Letting family and friends help with shopping
- Making sure you’re dressed for the cold weather, particularly with sensible footwear
- If you’re using blankets when sitting down at home, make sure they’re moved clear before standing up
- Keeping driveways and pathways as clear as possible
- Being careful when getting in and out of a car as the ground may be slippery
- Wearing gloves so your hands are free in case you slip
- Letting people know where you’re going and when you’ll be back or, where possible, going with somebody
- Staying in contact with others via phone and online resources
Dr Heaton continues: “Whether you’re inside or outside, it’s important to dress warm and wear layers. When you’re cold you naturally tense up so you don’t move as well as you would normally. If you’re outside, it’s important to keep your hands free and wear gloves so you can help stabilise or save yourself from a more significant injury if you were to fall. It’s also really important not to rush. Plan ahead so you give yourself plenty of time to complete an activity or get to an appointment. The more we rush, the more there is a likelihood of a fall happening.”
Falling has wide reaching implications and impacts on a person’s wellbeing and confidence. Even small physical injuries can have a significant impact on a frailer individual so please take care in the snow and ice.