Think Thrice When the Risk is Ice

Photo courtesy of Brian Starr

While much of America is digging out of the latest blast of winter snow and ice, others are just now digging in. The injuries that inevitably coincide with ice and freezing rain remind us that a fall — one of the most preventable causes of injury, disability and even death – is a risk that should be taken seriously by people of all ages.

Falls are the leading cause of unintentional, injury-related death among people 65 and over and the third leading cause of unintentional, injury-related death for all ages, claiming the lives of more than 18,000 people each year, according to the National Safety Council.

Of the 1.4 million cases of traumatic brain injury suffered in the United States each year, 28 percent (or 392,000 cases) are the result of falls, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Every 18 seconds, the CDC reports, an older adult is treated in an emergency department after a fall. Over the course of a year, one in three adults aged 65 and over experience a fall that requires medical attention.

 “People on blood thinners (aspirin, plavix, aggrenox, Coumadin / warfarin) need to be particularly careful, as falls can result in much worse injury since those medications can result in increased bleeding,” says Lori Shutter, MD, Director of the Neurocritical Care Program at UCNI and a neuro-intensivist with the Mayfield Clinic.

As major winter storms batter much of the United States, slips are the most obvious risk.

  • Be alert for ice. Snow you see, ice you don’t. The ice is what makes you fall.
  • Step carefully.
  • If you don’t have to be out in bad weather, don’t be.
  • If you don’t have to go out, let it wait. If you must be out, wear skid-resistant boots.
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