Ten Crucial Tips for Staying Safe This Winter

Health Professional

With winter drawing near, so are cold temperatures, icy surfaces, blustery wind, and other winter weather related dangers.

I'm telling you, until I shaved my head; I never realized how much heat is lost through the top of the head. I walk out in winter and it feels like I have an ice pack on my head. Unbelievable.” ~Bryan Cranston

Following are risk worthy considerations for those of us who live with chronic pain.

1) Bundle up.

Protect muscles, joints, toes, fingers, ears, and nose to maximize function and minimize pain. Wearing layers of clothing keeps us warmer and provides a cushion should we lose our balance, slip, and fall.

There are other important and unexpected reasons to bundle up. Slippery roads bring motor vehicle accidents. And, cold weather can affect motor vehicle performance. If found in either predicament, the prolonged exposure can cause frostbite or hypothermia.

*Keep a blanket, a heavy scarf, and an extra pair of socks and gloves in the vehicle.

2) Avoid outdoor overexertion.

Cold stress can put demands on the cardiovascular system causing serious health or even life threatening consequences. It is a leading cause of death due to cold weather.

*Prepare by hydrating with plenty of fluids, limit strenuous outdoor activities under the advice of your physician, and re-warm your core by drinking warm, non-alcohol, caffeine free beverages.

3) Warm up.

When coming in from the outside, mobility is compromised. So, take a few minutes to warm up by walking in place while swinging your arms to get blood circulating.

*If you have stairs, always keep a hand free to grasp the railing.

4) Be prepared.

Keep food and water on hand that doesn’t have to be refrigerated or cooked. Make sure you have batteries in your carbon monoxide, smoke alarms, radios, and flashlights. Follow the warnings on all indoor appliances and energy generators, including space heaters, and fireplaces. Do not use outdoor devices indoors.

5) Stay warm, stay safe.

In case of power failure, know the guidelines set out by your city or local utility company.

6) Use helpful strategies.

Straining and repetitive motion can increase pain. So, whether you are preparing a traditional dish everyone has come to love, or plan to do other inside hobbies, think of ways to avoid injury. Bring your work area to you. Work on a surface that doesn’t require prolonged standing, bending, or reaching. Use large grip utensils and tools. Break tasks into manageable increments. Let past experiences be learning experiences and revise your plans accordingly.

7) Don’t clutter.

Winter brings indoor celebrations, so make sure Christmas trees, Menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, decorative statues, gifts, etc. are not placed where they can create a hazard. Keep candles or keepsakes away from a child or pet’s reach. If you find yourself doing a juggling act to avoid dropping something, abort the mission. A broken thing is easier to replace than a broken hip.

8) Do a quick assessment when visiting others.

Be aware of the number of people in your space. Gatherings often include crowded rooms and little ones under feet. Lighting may be insufficient, decorative throw rugs may be present, or footpath areas may be cluttered with things that aren’t normally there. Find your place and stay put as much as possible.

9) Be aware of what you wear.

Make sure your winter clothing still fits. Ill-fitting clothes and shoes not only increase pain; they also restrict normal movement.

10) Ask for help.

Maybe you aren’t able to do today what you did last winter or even last week. It’s okay to ask for help. Maybe you need someone to drive you to an appointment or pick up a few items while they are at the store. Keep a list. Maybe you can’t get your medications or other items out of the packaging. Recruit family and friends to help you. There are also organizations that are willing to help, ask your local civic center. Know ahead of time what kind of help is available to assistance you.

If we apply safety measures and are willing to be flexible, we can enjoy the many pleasures winter brings. We can do things like read a book, work puzzles with family and friends, or play indoor games. We can watch televised sports or favorite old movies. And soup, oh how I love a hot bowl of soup, it’s easy to fix, warms our core, and hydrates us during the dry months of winter.

I appreciate the season of giving, and anticipate the gift of a new year that will bring renewal and rebirth. Living with chronic pain only limits us if we limit our way of thinking, and our thoughts are duty free. Stay safe, stay warm, stay hydrated, and enjoy.

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