• Healthy for the Holidays: Mayo gives tips on preventing falls on ice during busy season

a woman who has fallen on a snowy, icy path in the winter woods and a male friend is helping her

MANKATO, Minn. – Tis the season of a million errands and shopping trips, and it just so happens to coincide with that time of year when ice and snow begin to impact travel, both in our cars and on foot.

In the north country, a good pair of boots isn't always enough to protect your feet and ankles from injury if you're not careful. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 1 million adults in the U.S. are injured due to slips and falls every year, with the injury rate increasing significantly as temperatures decline.

"When it comes to slippery sidewalks and roads, vigilance truly is key," says Taylor Beahrs, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato. "This can be especially true for adults with balance problems, or those who have ankle pain or instability."

So what can you do? Dr. Beahrs recommends the following tips while out running around on the snow and ice.

  • Wear proper footwear.
    Be sure you have a pair of lightweight boots with good support. You also can purchase snow grips or ice cleats for the bottoms of your shoes or boots for just a few dollars.
  • Take your time.
    Do not hurry while walking outside. Pay attention to your steps and walk slowly.
  • Use assistance.
    Always use handrails, a walking stick, your walker or cane when out in winter weather.

  • Take small steps.
    Small steps, almost from side to side, help you maintain your center of gravity. Take small steps and waddle a bit like a penguin.

  • Stay inside.
    On days when it is icy and you do not need to go anywhere, stay home.

Dr. Beahrs also recommends that if you do feel yourself falling and cannot regain your balance, don't try to brace your landing with an outstretched arm. That can lead to more injuries. Try to land on your buttock or back.

After a fall, wait for someone to help you in case you are injured or to avoid subsequent falls. Some people further injure themselves by springing up after a fall instead of waiting for help.

"Overall, just use your best judgment on the snow and ice, and take time to assess your path forward before taking steps," says Dr. Beahrs.

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About Mayo Clinic Health System

Mayo Clinic Health System has a physical presence in 44 communities and consists of 53 clinics, 16 hospitals and other facilities that serve the healthcare needs of people in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based healthcare professionals, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive the highest-quality physical and virtual healthcare close to home.

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