Being Prepared for Cold Weather Injuries in Minnesota

Part of living in Minnesota is experiencing all four seasons. When Jack Frost hits the state each year, he brings extreme winter weather. Residents need to prepare for living in harsh conditions such as snowstorms and ice because the risk of injuries increase as temperatures decrease. It’s up to you to take steps to safeguard you and your family from common cold-weather accidents. Start with these tips.

Limit Time Spent in the Cold

Do not expose yourself to extreme cold unnecessarily. If you must go out in the elements, do so as little as possible, and wear the proper attire. Prolonged exposure to cold weather can result in hypothermia and frostbite – two conditions that bring hundreds of people to the hospital in Minnesota every year. Hypothermia can be deadly if not treated in time. Tips to prevent these cold weather injuries are as follows:

  • Stay dry. Keeping your body dry is as important as staying warm in extreme weather. Dress in many light layers, with long underwear to wick moisture away from your body and inner layers of wool to insulate. Cover as much of your skin as possible, using hats, scarves, gloves, and an extra pair of socks.
  • Do not drink alcohol while out in cold weather. In 2014, almost half of cold-weather related deaths in Minnesota involved alcohol intoxication or drug use. Substance use can make it difficult to tell that the body is cold, impairing decision making and increasing the risk of injury and death.
  • Use the buddy system. Many people suffer cold weather injuries because they’re alone and don’t realize how cold they are, or they are alone and get lost, or injured and stuck. Use the buddy system if you have to go out into the snow. A buddy can help you monitor your physical reaction to the weather if you have to be outside for a long time.

If you can stay inside and wait out the worst of the cold, do so. Remember to bring your pets inside as much as possible as well. Watch for signs of hypothermia such as uncontrollable shivering, a cold abdomen, and a low core body temperature. Rigid muscles, irregular heartbeat, and respiratory problems can occur with severe hypothermia.

Avoid Slip and Fall Accidents

In January 2017, doctors reported an influx of emergency room visits and hospital admissions from slips and falls on ice-coated sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots. In one 24-hour period last winter, 28 people sought treatment for ice-related injuries in St. Louis Park, according to a healthcare spokesperson.

Wrist and ankle injuries are the most common in slip and fall ice accidents, from blunt force and twisting motions in falls. Head and brain injuries are also possibilities if the head strikes the ground or another object in a fall. Ways to avoid slip and falls include removing snow from walkways, applying salt and sand, and being cautious when stepping on snow, as there could be ice underneath. Always keep a cell phone handy in case of an emergency during winter.