The Other Side of the Coin: The Need for Safety in Winter

I’m usually all for urging people to get outside and play in the snow, so this article in today’s BBC World News about an increase in injuries due to snow and ice caught my eye and reminded me that although winter is often beautiful and fun, it can also be dangerous. Like all facets of mother nature, winter is not to be taken lightly; a certain amount of respect is due in order to enjoy and be safe.

Safety is especially important for those who are more susceptible to the cold and less able to fend for themselves, namely senior citizens and children. The two most dangerous factors in winter (and I’m just talking about pedestrian safety here) are hypothermia from cold exposure and falls from slippery snow and ice. Of course, there are two types of braving the ravages of winter: Wanting to go out in it, and having to go out in it. 

For the wanting types (for anything from a gentle walk around your snow-muffled neighborhood to all-day sledding/skiing/hiking extravaganzas), you’ll want to dress appropriately including footwear (taking special precautions for very young children and the elderly), travel in groups, be able to recognize signs of frostnip and frostbite, take a map, and know your limits – are you and your family really up for a 10-mile trudge on a trail you don’t know well, or are you better sticking with something you know you can handle? 

For the have-to’s, again, make sure to dress appropriately, including sturdy, slip-resistant footwear (forget the Blahnik’s, they’ll get ruined anyway), stick to sidewalks and other well-cleared pathways whenever possible, and take it slow – budget extra time to get from Point A to Point B. If you have a family member or neighbor who is elderly or in poor health, offer to help: Run errands, shovel the sidewalk, or take them with you to the grocery store so that they don’t have to run the risk of exposure or a fall. There’s a wonderful group called “Faith, Hope and Love” in Indiana that was formed specifically to help seniors with snow removal. And when shoveling your neighbor’s or your own walkway, be sensible: Shovel when snow is fresh, take care to bend from the knees, avoid lifting too much at once, and pace yourself! 

The National Safety Council has some great information, and here are a couple more articles that I found useful: Cold, Ice, and Snow Safety  and Cold, snow pose danger to elderly.