Winter is a beautiful season, but it can also be frightful and full of injury risks. Here are our top 5 hints for keeping you and your loved ones safe so you can enjoy the delights of winter weather without visiting us!

The weather outside is frightful

Regular ice, black ice, compacted snow, all of them can easily lead to slips and falls. Falls can be especially dangerous for children or older adults, and put us at risk for traumatic brain injury. To keep yourself from slipping, focus first on removing the ice or snow.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow — then shovel it up!

If there is a lot of snow on the ground, it can be important to clear that first before it gets packed down, or to expose the ice below it. Clear any snow from the area using a shovel designed for your height, strength, and capabilities. There are so many designs out there from dual handles, ergonomic handles, rounded scoops, flat blades, that you will hopefully find one that meets your needs.

Icy roads, walkways, and doorsteps – oh, my!

There are different kinds of salt, sand, liquid de-icers, and other ice-melting products that can remove the icy fall risk from your sidewalk, steps, or driveway. You should use the product that is appropriate for your home and is easiest for you to apply. If you have pets that regularly walk over the area you are applying the deicer, it might be best to look for a pet-friendly brand or product.

If you can’t get rid of the ice, then it’s time to increase your traction. For increased personal traction, look into products that can be attached to your shoes. They came in different styles, from spikes to chains to coils, and being able to easily put them on and remove them makes it easy to go from inside to outside. If you use a walker, cane, or crutches, they make grippers or ice tips that help dig into the slippery winter surface and keep you upright. If you are getting snow tires for your car, think of these products as the equivalent for yourself.

Tip 2: Check your helmet

Winter is the time to hit the slopes. From skiing to snowboarding, there are so many great winter sports. Before you head down the mountain, check your helmet. Helmets need to be properly fitted (and worn!) to be able to protect your head. Additionally, helmets have limited lifespans. Check the sticker for an expiration date or call the manufacturer to find out how often the helmet should be replaced. If you have been using the same helmet for over a decade, it probably doesn’t provide the same protection as a newer one.

Tip 3: Keep floors dry and cleared.

It’s easy to let winter gear pile up by the door or in the mudroom. Keep the walking path in your house free of puddles and materials so you don’t run the risk of slipping or tripping. Not sure how to manage the overwhelming piles of wet jackets, gloves, hats, scarves, or boots? Drying racks from the laundry room can help keep all the wet snow gear contained and hanging in a way that will help it dry faster. Keep a towel or mat under the rack to absorb any dripping water or snow. Shoes racks, coat racks, wall hooks, and baskets can also help keep everything organized and off the floor.

Tip 4: Prevent burns

Winter is the season for soups, stews, and crockpots. It is also the season of scald burns! When using a crockpot or pressure cooker, keep the cords tucked against the wall of the back of the counter. Keep the crockpot away from any edges and off of any towels or tablecloths that can be easily pulled down. If you are making soup or stew on the stove, try to keep pot handles tucked inward. If possible, place them on the back burner of your stove. When serving, leave plenty of room in the bowl or cup to prevent spills. If people are hungry, they will come back for seconds!

Tip 5: Know your limits

When it comes to winter DIY and snow clearing, it is important to know your limits. There are plenty of tools and tricks out there for clearing icicles and ice dams from your roof. However, slippery surfaces, ladders in snow, and attempts to do it yourself after watching a youtube video, can result in damage to your roof and damage to your body. Trust us, falling from that kind of height still causes injury even if there is snow on the ground. Falling snow and icicles can also inflict serious injuries. If you have icicles or ice dams on your house, see if a local licensed and insured contractor, roofer, or landscaping company offers professional services.

Abby Beerman is an injury prevention coordinator at University of Vermont Medical Center and Children’s Hospital.

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