Watch out for slips and trips this winter

The most common injuries during the winter months are often caused by slips, trips or falls. Most people will usually only suffer the odd bump or bruise, but what can you do to help someone who has sprained or strained an ankle or wrist as a result of their fall?

We asked our Operations and Policy Director Jim Dorman for some first aid advice for injuries and conditions which occur more during the winter weeks.

Avoiding and treating slips and trips

Whilst our paths can often be covered in snow, ice and leaves at this time of year, I’ll start off by giving some practical tips for helping people avoid an injury due to a slip, trip or fall.

  • Wear sturdy footwear with good grips when you are outdoors – you can change into more comfortable footwear when you get back inside.
  • Paths that are covered from the sun may stay icy for longer, keep your concentration whilst walking in these areas, especially slopes.
  • Offer to go to the shops for any neighbours who are elderly or disabled.
  • Give yourself more time to get to your destination, don’t find leave it to the last minute to catch a bus or train.
  • If you see a path that hasn’t been gritted and there is a grit bin nearby, help out others by spreading some grit over the pavement.

However if someone has fallen and injured their ankle or wrist, they may have strained or sprained the soft tissue around the bone or joint. In worst cases they may have even broken a limb.

The casualty may feel pain and tenderness and have difficulty moving the injured part, you may also notice swelling and bruising around the injured area. To help the person, use the following tips:

  • R – Rest the injured part by helping the casualty to sit or lie down
  • I – Apply an ice pack or cold pack. Don’t put it directly onto the casualty’s skin, wrap it in a towel or similar material
  • C – Provide comfortable support. Leave the cold compress in place, cover it with soft padding and secure it with a bandage
  • E – Elevate the injured part to help ease the pain and swelling

Sometimes a sprain can be confused with a broken bone, however a fracture is normally caused by more force.

A fracture can be recognised if you see a deformity in the limb or a wound where a bone is protruding. The casualty may also go into shock. If you are in any doubt whether you are treating a sprain, strain or fracture then the easiest way is always to treat it as a fracture.

Your main aim is to prevent any movement at the injury site and provide comfortable support for the injured part and arrange for the casualty to be taken to hospital.

Helping with hypothermia

At this time of year we experience a drop in temperature and unfortunately hear about cases of hypothermia.

Hypothermia occurs when the casualty’s body temperature drops below 35 0 C and it can be recognised when he or she is shivering with pale, cold, dry skin. They may also have symptoms such as disorientation, apathy or irrational behaviour, impaired consciousness, slow and shallow breathing and a weakening pulse.

If you suspect that the casualty has hypothermia, quickly replace any wet clothes with dry ones and heat him or her up slowly by giving them a warm drink such as soup and high-energy foods like chocolate. Do not give the person alcohol. Be prepared to contact the emergency services if the casualty’s condition gets worse.

Want to know more?

If you’re interested in learning more about first aid, or even becoming a qualified first-aider, why not look at some of our training courses?

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