Did you know? Nearly 76,000 people are hurt in car accidents each year as a result cold-weather conditions like snow, ice, or sleet.
Don’t assume winter accidents are limited to car wrecks, however. As a matter of fact, wintertime is rife with opportunities for getting hurt. Ice on the ground and staircases causes people to slip and fall, whether or not traffic is involved. Cold air leads to aching bones and even frostbite with enough exposure. You aren’t even safe from winter accidents by staying inside, at least if you celebrate the holidays — burns from cooking Thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen and falls from stepladders while hanging Christmas decorations are common indoor winter accidents.
The best way to deal with most winter accidents is to be prepared to avoid them. For example, driving slowly and cautiously in icy conditions can go a long way in helping you avoid winter accidents, and it’s a good strategy for everyone from trucking company employees to families. But sometimes even the best planning and preparation isn’t enough to protect you and your loved ones from accidents and mistakes.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the most common winter accidents that people experience. We’ll also explain how to recover from accidents, from treating an injury to seeking out personal injury attorneys, so you can get back to enjoying your winter activities.
Common Winter Accidents to Avoid
Sometimes simply knowing about a risk is all you need to safely avoid it. Here we’ll detail some of the top winter accidents to watch out for this year.
Falls from Ladders and Rooftops
If you’ve done much Christmas decorating in the past, you probably know firsthand that people will go to ridiculous lengths to get their decor looking right. Often that means climbing just a little higher, or stretching just a little farther, to reach a certain hook or ledge. When you’re focused on putting something in just the right place, it’s all too easy to lose track of what your body is doing. Stretching too high or too far, or balancing on a rickety stepladder, is a dangerous accident waiting to happen.
The solution for this is obvious: don’t ever do anything mindlessly when you’re on an elevated platform. Whether you’re standing on the roof to straighten a string of lights, or hanging onto a ladder to hang that star on your Christmas tree, pay careful attention to your hands and feet at all times. Don’t overextend yourself for any reason, and never stand on something that isn’t meant to support you. This kind of accident is an easy one to avoid as long as you pay attention. But if you still get hurt, a good orthopedic surgeon can help get you back on your feet.
Baking is an absolute must during the fall and winter months. From making special Halloween treats to baking cupcakes for New Years Day, there are a lot of tummies to fill and many exciting recipes to try. But all this kitchen activity puts you at a higher risk of getting burned or cut since cooking involves a lot of extreme heat and sharp knives.
Like falls from high places, kitchen accidents usually happen when you aren’t paying attention. It’s easy to get panicked when several things are done cooking at once, but even when you’re in a hurry, it’s essential that you take your time in the kitchen. Get in the habit of wearing oven mitts whenever you handle something hot (or even something that might still be warm — it’s easy to underestimate when something can burn you). Practice good cutting and slicing technique, and never cut anything towards you.
You should also keep family and friends out of the kitchen when you’re in the middle of cooking, unless they’re actually helping. Good conversation is an essential part of the holidays, but in the kitchen, it can be dangerously distracting. It’s especially important to keep young children out of the kitchen at all times when you’re using it.
Broken Bones From Slips and Falls
Considering the generous amounts of ice and snow on the ground and the hazards of using ladders to decorate high places, it’s not a surprise that broken bones are some of the most common winter injuries. Unfortunately, it can happen to anyone, even if you’re careful. No one plans to get hurt, but accidental slips and falls are particularly easy to fall victim to, even for those who are careful.
Unless you live in a very temperate climate and don’t plan on decorating, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be at risk of a hard fall or two during the winter. However, there are some tips you can use to put the odds more in your favor. For one thing, avoid wearing shoes with slick soles that make it harder to keep your balance. High heels are a bad idea for almost all wintertime excursions, unless you’re planning on staying indoors and being very, very careful on your way to and from the car. Dress shoes in general, and even some athletic shoes, tend to have very smooth soles that make it easy to slip. Until the spring weather arrives, make it a point to only wear shoes that grip wet and slippery surfaces. You should also consider keeping a couple of pairs of ice cleats at home and in your car for particularly icy conditions.
Muscle Strains From Winter Chores
Muscle strains occur whenever you stretch or pull a muscle or tendon too far. Unfortunately, if you’re going to be shoveling any snow this winter, you’re likely to end up with one or two strained muscles. Sometimes injuries like these are noticeable instantly, right after you perform the action that pushed your body too far. Other times you feel fine until you wake up the next morning when you find it difficult to move because you’re so stiff or in pain.
The best way to avoid over-straining your muscles is to know your limits and respect them. If you think stretching up to reach something might push you too far, or that shoving an entire snowdrift at once might be too much for you, don’t do it. In fact, be extra careful by avoiding coming anywhere near your physical limits — the cold temperatures make it even easier to get injured, so play it extra safe. See if a neighbor with a snowplow can clear your driveway for you instead of doing the whole thing yourself.
You should also warm up your joints and muscles before going outside to do any chores. Some jumping jacks, broad rotational motions, and light stretching can go a long way towards keeping your body comfortable and strain-free.
Ruptured Disks From Lifting
Getting a ruptured disk is no joke. Although they can happen more as you age, they occur most commonly during the winter as a result of falls or too much physical activity. Slipping on ice and exerting yourself too much while shoveling snow can both result in ruptured disks, but they may be most likely to occur when you’re lifting something that’s too heavy for you.
To avoid a ruptured disk, follow the same advice we’ve given already: know and respect your personal limits, and wear weather-appropriate shoes to avoid falls.
Bruises From Falls
If you take a tumble but manage to avoid breaking any bones, you’re likely to still end up with a bad bruise. While it’s a very minor injury compared to breaking your ankle, bruises are painful and unsightly nonetheless. In some cases, you can be left with a mark that takes weeks to disappear.
The best strategy for avoiding bruises is the same for avoiding most winter accidents: stay away from high places unless you’re being extraordinarily careful, and wear shoes that are appropriate for the weather.
Chilblains From Cold Air Exposure
Chilblains are itchy sores, bumps, and blisters, which typically develop a few hours after having your skin exposed to extremely cold temperatures. They’re most likely to appear on unprotected or poorly-protected parts of your body, such as your nose, ears, fingers, and toes. Although they usually heal on their own, they can last up to three weeks, and they’re unsightly and uncomfortable.
Fortunately chilblains are also easy to avoid as long as you dress properly before going outside. Make sure to bundle up well with a hat, scarf, and insulated boots and gloves, and you should be fine.
Chilblains aren’t the only problem you could face from having your skin exposed to extreme cold. With enough time spent outdoors, you could develop frostbite, which generally impacts the fingers, toes, face, and ears. Frostbite results in redness, numbness, and a sort of “pins and needs” feeling. It could also cause blisters or scabs in extreme cases.
Once again, make sure you’re properly dressed for current weather conditions before you go outside. Be sure to take into account how long you’ll be outside, since you’ll need to be bundled up more if you’re going to be out for a while.
Whiplash From Car Accidents
Wintertime comes with an increased risk of car accidents because of harsh weather and slippery roads. Unfortunately, car accidents can result in any number of serious injuries, but one of the most common is whiplash. Whiplash occurs when your head whips back and forth forcefully in response to a sudden jolt. While auto repair services can get your car fixed in short order, it could take months for your neck to recover, you may even continue to experience pain from the injury for years afterward.
There’s no sure way to avoid whiplash or other car-related injuries, simply because you can’t control other drivers on the road. However, you can make sure to drive cautiously and follow all traffic laws yourself, and don’t ride with anyone whose driving you don’t completely trust. Because other drivers can be unpredictable, you should watch other cars closely when you drive. Avoid assuming that everyone else on the road will always obey the law. If you can be prepared for someone to pull in front of you or make an illegal turn, without being on-edge, you’ll be much more likely to avoid an accident.
How to Recover After an Accident
Sooner or later, you’re going to end up in a wintertime accident of some kind. But after calling the towing service and getting the help you need, how can you make sure you recover as quickly as possible? That’s what we’ll explore in the next section of this article.
Use RICE to Recover Faster
The acronym RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It’s an effective strategy for dealing with injury recovery that’s easy to remember.
- Rest: whenever you experience significant or abnormal pain, such as immediately following an accident, the first thing you must do is rest the injured area to prevent further damage. This also applies after you’ve received treatment for your injury and you’re in the recovery process.
- Ice: many injuries, like sprains and bruises, cannot be treated topically. Instead, applying ice to the injured area can help reduce swelling and speed up healing. You should apply ice in increments of between 10 and 30 minutes, ideally once every two or three hours.
- Compression: immediately after your injury and for up to 48 hours afterward, you can apply pressure to the injured area to help prevent swelling.
- Elevation: another strategy to help with swelling, elevating the afflicted body part is the last part of the RICE acronym. For an injury to an arm or leg, make sure the affected area is raised just above the level of your waist.
See a Physical Therapist
Physical therapy can help you recover from a winter accident. This is particularly the case if your injury makes it difficult for you to move freely or do the things you’re used to doing every day.
A physical therapist will evaluate your condition and record your progress over time as your injury heals. In many cases, their role is to help a patient increase their range of motion after a debilitating accident. But they are also beneficial for dealing with less serious injuries, such as sprains, strains, and fractures. If your injury makes it difficult for you to live normally for some reason, a physical therapist might be able to offer the help you need.
Seek Legal Representation
A personal injury lawyer might be the next person you see on your recovery journey. If your injury occurred on a commercial property or was a result of someone else’s negligence, you might want to seek compensation for your loss.
For example, if you slipped on a parking lot covered in ice that a business should have cleared already, a slip and fall accident attorney might be able to make a legal case for you. If you were harmed in a traffic accident, you will almost definitely need to seen an attorney to navigate the challenges that follow. Getting on the path to justice and financial compensation can go a long way towards your peace of mind.
Winter accidents are no fun to deal with. But with the right knowledge and preparation, not only can most of them be avoided, but you can easily recover from them when they do occur. Keep these tips in mind and winter accidents shouldn’t be a problem for you this year.