Nov09

Winter slips and falls—When to visit urgent care

Remember last summer’s heat dome, record-breaking temperatures and drought concerns? Yeah. Neither do we.

With bomb cyclones and rivers of rain already hitting the Northwest, forecasters are buzzing about the upcoming winter season. Let’s just say it’s great news for skiers and snowboarders.

Bundle up, folks. La Niña’s back.

What happens during La Niña?

La Niña (“little girl” in Spanish) is a weather pattern that rolls around every few years. During La Niña, trade winds strengthen and blow warm water toward Asia. Cold water comes to the surface and moves towards the western US coast. The cold waters push the jet stream northward, which can lead to warmer temperatures and drought conditions in the southern states and heavy rain, flooding and cooler-than-normal temps in the Pacific Northwest and Canada. 

In a nutshell, we’re going to get wet and cold.

Decidedly more popular in the PNW, El Niño is essentially the reverse of La Niña. This FAQ from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has loads of cool info about the brother-and-sister duo. 

Two La Niña winters in a row is called a 'double dip.'

What are some common fall injuries?

Injuries from winter slips and falls can run the gamut, from bumps and bruises to something more serious. Common injuries include:

  • Cuts and bruises
  • Broken bones
  • Ankle and wrist sprains
  • Knee damage
  • Dislocated shoulder
  • Muscle strain
  • Concussion and other traumatic brain injuries

How can I prevent falls during this winter?

With more condensation falling from the sky this winter, the risks of slips and tumbles on soggy surfaces are higher than normal. While it’s tempting to crawl under a blanket and ride out the storm, you still need to get out and about during the winter months.

As you do, here are some tips for avoiding winter trips, slips and falls.

  • Take your time. Slips and falls happen most often when you’re in a hurry. When walking in the great outdoors, tread slowly, take small steps and walk as flat-footed as possible. Give yourself ample time to get where you’re going, whether on foot or behind the wheel. Dashing out the door to the car may not end well.
  • Carry on but keep it to a minimum. When carrying items, don’t load up so much that your sight is obstructed. Multiple trips from the car to the kitchen are preferable to a trip to the ER or urgent care.
  • Opt for slip-resistant over fashion. Wear shoes or boots that provide good traction on wet, snowy or icy surfaces to lessen the risk of slipping.
  • Be aware of potential trip and fall hazards. Keep an eye out and look out ahead for fallen branches, black ice, uneven surfaces and slippery sidewalks. When driving, try to park your car in a clear area and watch where you step when getting in and out.  
  • Listen to the mom voice in your head and wipe your feet. Slippery indoor floors are a major fall hazard. Thoroughly wipe wet or snowy shoes or remove them to keep floors dry and slip-free. 
  • Keep it light, inside and out. Between La Niña and the end of Daylight Saving Time, there’s a whole lot of dark this time of year—and a greater risk of trips and falls. Consider a headlamp to light the way outdoors on dark mornings and evenings. Indoors, plug in night lights and keep a flashlight handy to prevent a fall or trip when it’s lights out.
  • Keep driveways and walkways clear. Keep a container of salt or sand in the garage or near doors to sprinkle on icy surfaces. If you’re not up for shovel or snow-blower duty, ask a friend for help, or boost the local economy and hire a neighborhood teen to do the job.

How can I keep from getting hurt when I fall?

Even when you’re careful, falls happen. When you feel like you’re losing your balance and going down, try to hit the ground with as little impact as possible:

  • Bend elbows and knees. If you stick your arms out when you think you’re going to hit the deck, you might break more than your fall.
  • Protect your head. If you fall backwards, tuck your chin to prevent hitting your head against the hard ground or pavement. If your fall is head first, turn your face to the side.
  • Aim for a soft landing. Try to land on the muscles of your back, backside or thighs.
  • Roll with it. Rather than try to stop the fall as soon as possible and let one part of your body absorb the impact, see it through. The more you roll, the safer you are.

When should I visit urgent care?

Injuries from falls run the gamut, from minor bumps and bruises to serious trauma.

If you fall and hit your head, seek emergency medical treatment right away, especially if you lose consciousness or begin to bleed. Head to your nearest ER if you experience dizziness, nausea, vomiting or confusion.

You should also get medical care you suspect a broken bone or are in serious pain that doesn’t improve after 24–48 hours of icing, taking Tylenol or Motrin, and resting the injured area.

Other fall injuries typically require minimal treatment. The friendly providers at Indigo Urgent Care are available every day from 8 am to 8 pm to promptly diagnose and treat your minor injuries, including:

All Indigo locations offer onsite digital X-ray services. We’ll even send you home with a pair of crutches, if needed. And if something more serious is going on, we’ll refer you to a higher level of care. 

Find an Indigo near me

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