How to avoid winter trauma injuries, according to experts

US & World

Someone using a snow blower (Nexstar Media Wire)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – As seasons change, so do injury patterns.

Some people venture out into the winter weather for fun and games while others head out to clear away snow. In both cases, people are at higher risk of injuries.  

Danger symbol on snow plow (Nexstar Media Wire)

“We see probably a pretty good rise in slip and falls ankle and hip injuries, ankle and hip and knee injuries,” said Owen Lander, Medical Director of Emergency Department at WVU Medicine Ruby Memorial.  

Some are related to winter activities like skiing and snowboarding while other common injuries come from shoveling; back injuries can arise because it’s not a common movement. In some cases, shoveling can cause even greater injury than just back pain. It can lead to a heart attack.  

To avoid health concerns, some might use a snowblower, but that could also lead to traumatic hand injuries from contact with the blade if the user isn’t careful.

“When these things happen it’s just because people have violated some of the cardinal basic safety rules,” Lander said. “If you never, meaning never put your hand inside the shoot of a machine that’s not completely off you won’t injure your hand.”  

Also in the winter season, people can also suffer from frostbite. The best way to avoid it is to wear mittens outside, they’re much more effective than regular gloves at keeping hands warm.  

But if people forget mittens or gloves and their hands and feet start feeling a little cold when outside, it doesn’t automatically mean they have frostbite.  

Someone shoveling as snowfalls (Nextstar Media Wire)

“As soon as you start to feel any loss in sensation like your finger and toes feel like they’re getting a little numb, not even completely number but the sensation has decreased, that’s your bodies warn sign that you need to at that point get inside or get your hand and feet somewhere warm,” Lander said.  

The best way to re-warm your hands is to do it slowly. Lander said you shouldn’t just stick your hands under hot water. Since your hands are so cold you don’t know what the temperature of the water is so you could be causing a heat injury. The best way to warm up is yourself.  

“Putting your hands under your arms or up against you belly or even on your legs and thighs if your warm enough, you know, get your whole body in a warm environment,” Lander said.   

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