NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – When winter weather strikes, your health can be in danger. From slip-and-fall accidents to heart attacks, there are many things to watch for when temperatures drop and snow and ice move in.
Dr. Tyler Barrett, the Executive Medical Director for Emergency Services at Vanderbilt, said that with emergency rooms already busy, it’s important to stay safe during the upcoming winter storm.
The first thing you need to do is dress warmly.
“Make sure you dress warm. Wear layers,” Dr. Barrett said. “Protect the areas where you’re most at risk against some sort of cold injury. So face, ears, fingers, toes, you know, the areas that get the least amount of blood flow.”
When you shiver, it’s a sign that it’s time to go indoors and warm up. Hypothermia is also a concern, and older individuals and young children are at a higher risk.
“If you start to notice somebody become a little bit slower to respond or they start to seem like they’re getting more tired, get them inside, get them out of the cold,” Dr. Barrett said.
Slipping and falling due to ice is another hazard. Wearing shoes with good tread is crucial.
“There are certain factors that we know make individuals more at risk if they have a head injury. Anyone who is on a blood thinner. So if you take a blood thinner for blood clots or heart arrhythmias, and you have a head injury, it’s always best to get checked out, because you’re definitely at an increased risk for developing some sort of bleed,” Dr. Barrett said.
Falling into a body of water is something you want to avoid at all costs in below-freezing temperatures — but it can happen. Calling the paramedics when someone falls into a body of water is crucial. While you’re waiting for help, get them indoors.
“First thing, get them inside, get them in warm, get the wet clothes off of them, and then you start warming them up,” said Dr. Barrett. “You don’t want to put them in a scalding hot bath. One of the worst things you can do when somebody has got some cold injuries is to apply incredibly hot water. A lot of times with cold injuries, you’ll have some numbness. So they may not be able to tell you that you’re actually kind of causing some burning.”
Being aware of your surroundings when sledding is also crucial. Avoid hills that end near water or roads. Also, wear a helmet.
“I always recommend wearing helmets you know, during these storms we always see at least one child over in our children’s ED gets a bad head injury,” Dr. Barrett added.
Getting rid of snow can also be hazardous and may even lead to a heart attack. Shoveling snow is an intense aerobic activity. So, if you start to feel tightness in your chest, stop and seek medical attention.