Break Point!

Volume 4, Issue 1 View the Archives January, 2001
Prepare for Wintry Fun and Cold
Don't Slip and Slide, Slow Down
Don't Be Left Out in the Cold This Winter
Wintry Fun Can Pose Risk For Injury
Surf's Up - A Guide To Internet Sites On The Web
Next Month in Injury Prevention

Prepare for Wintry Fun and Cold

Kathy O'Day
Loyola University Burn and Shock Trauma Institute, Injury Prevention Program

There has been an urgency to prepare for winter with the record snowfall in December. Many people have been buying boots, snow blowers and have been buying warmer winter clothing to handle the winter chill.

The leading cause of death during winter storms is automobile crashes. Preparing your vehicle for the winter season and knowing how to react if stranded or lost on the road are the keys to safe winter driving.

Winter can also be a time for fun activities in the snow. Children will be heading out to the snow hills to try their new sleds and snowboards. Adults will be making arrangements for the ski trips to mountain slopes. The right equipment for the winter sport will prevent unintentional injuries and save lives.

Surf’s Up will give web site information on hypothermia, winter sports activities and winter driving tips.

Break Point is produced by Loyola University, Burn and Shock Trauma Institute Injury Prevention Program. Please call us at (708) 327-2455 or email to: Kathy O'Day with any comments or questions.

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Don't Slip and Slide, Slow Down

Driving during winter is different from any time of the year. The cold weather, snow and ice change the way your car handles the road and visibility.

Streets can become treacherous when covered with snow or ice, the glare from snow can be blinding, and there are fewer daylight hours for diving. Drivers can become anxious with changes in weather or worry about road conditions. .Drivers may also be in a hurry in anticipation of a possible delay and may not be attentive to the drivers around them.

The Illinois State Police would like you to stay safe this winter and remember the following tips:

  • Always buckle-up. Your seat belt can be the best protection against slick road conditions.
  • Carry a cellular phone for use during emergencies and for notifying those expecting your arrival in case there are weather delays.
  • When the weather calls for heavy of sub-zero temperatures the first question you need to ask is, is this trip really necessary? Do not go out unless the trip can’t be delayed. If you do go out, make sure someone knows your travel route and what time you expect to arrive at your destination.
  • Make sure your car is winterized, and always keep the tank topped off. Fill up the gas tank when it becomes less than half full.
  • Carefully inspect your tires for worn treads. Be sure the tires are properly inflated. Low tire pressure will decrease traction on snowy or ice- covered streets.
  • Dress for the weather, not your destination. Business attire may be appropriate for the office, but not best suited for unexpected winter weather.
  • Don’t drink and drive. Drinking can impair judgment and coordination. Drinking alcohol can lower body temperature and constricts blood flow to the extremities.

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Don't Be Left Out in the Cold This Winter

Going out in the cold when we were younger meant a ritual of hats, gloves mittens, snow pants and boots, etc. As we got older, fashion and being out of the view of our mothers lessened the amount of clothing we wore for the winter months.

The cold weather brings two very serious health hazards, frostbite and hypothermia. With frostbite and hypothermia, the temperature, the amount of body exposed and the period of time exposed are all factors contributing to the severity of the problem. The best defense against both conditions is to stay warm and keep your skin protected.

Frostbite causes temporary or permanent damage to any area exposed to freezing temperatures. Most commonly affected are the fingers, face, ears, even whole arms and legs. Hypothermia involves a dangerous loss of body heat as a result of general exposure to the cold. A drop in body temperature to 95 degrees or less is considered hypothermia. If the body temperature continues to fall, loss of memory, coma and even death could occur.

There are several signs that a person may be suffering from hypothermia, they include:

  • Uncontrolled shivering
  • Forgetfulness or confusion, drowsiness and fatigue
  • Slurred speech or lack of coordination
  • Change in appearance such as a puffy face
  • Weak pulse, slow heartbeat and very slow, shallow breathing.
  • Coma or death-like appearance, if the body temperature drops to or below 86 degrees.

With frostbite:

  • Red and painful skin are early signs.
  • Deeper freezing causes the skin to turn gray and mottled then white and stiff.
  • Numbness of the exposed area is common.
  • As skin re-warms it may swell and blister.

If you notice a person with the symptoms of hypothermia, take his or her temperature. If the temperature is 95 degrees or below, call a doctor or ambulance, or take the person to a hospital.

The principals of first aid are to prevent further heat loss, re-warm the body core and extremities. First aid should include:

  • Removal from the cold environment.
  • Keep the person dry. Replace any wet clothing and wrap the person in warm blankets.
  • You can also apply a hot water bottle or electric heating pad (on a low setting) to the person’s abdomen.
  • If the person is alert, give small amounts of warm food or drink. Do not give alcoholic beverages.
  • Do not give a hypothermia victim a hot shower or bath, it could cause shock. You can also apply a hot water bottle or electric heating pad (on a low setting) to the person’s abdomen.
  • Monitor the victims pulse and respirations.

Do not try to treat hypothermia at home! The condition should be treated in a hospital.

First aid for frostbite should include:

  • Remove the person from the cold environment. Get them indoors and get them into warm, dry clothing.
  • Bathe areas with warm, not hot water (104-108 degrees)
  • Discourage smoking and alcohol because they interfere with circulation to the injured areas.
  • Wrap the frostbitten area in blankets, sweaters, coats, etc. If no warm wrappings are available, place the frostbitten hands under your armpits or use your body to cover the affected area.
  • Do not rub frostbitten areas. The friction can damage the tissues further.
  • Do not apply snow to frostbitten areas, snow will aggravate the condition.

Seek medical attention immediately!

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Wintry Fun Can Pose Risk For Injury

There is inherent risk with any sport activity if the athlete does not use proper equipment or common sense. This is no different for snow sports.

While the total number of hospital emergency department visits for injuries associated with skiing declined substantially between 1993 and 1997, the number of head injuries remained relatively constant. During the same period, snowboarding injuries nearly tripled and the number of head injuries from snowboarding increased five-fold, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

As the numbers of snowboarder’s increase, there is growing concern with injury prevention on the slopes. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, the number of people who snowboard grew from 1.8 million to 2.5 million between 1993 and 1997. In a January 1999 report, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in Washington, D.C., issued a recommendation that skiers and snowboarders use helmets to prevent head injuries:

The CPSC staff concluded that helmet use by skiers and snowboarders could prevent or reduce the severity of 44 percent of head injuries to adults, and 53 percent of head injuries to children under the age of 15. The proportion of skiing and snowboarding head injuries is higher in children than in any other age group.

The study, conducted as part of CPSC's ongoing work to reduce head injuries in a variety of sports and activities, found that there were 17,500 head injuries associated with skiing and snowboarding in 1997. An estimated 7,700 head injuries—including 2,600 head injuries to children—could be prevented or reduced in severity each year by using skiing or snowboarding helmets and about 11 skiing- and snowboarding- related deaths could be avoided annually through helmet use.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends the following tips for any snow sport:

  • Wear a helmet specifically designed for boarding.
  • Select the right equipment, and make sure items such as bindings and boots are adjusted to fit properly.
  • Make sure you have the proper training, and don't ski or snowboard beyond your ability.
  • Ski and snowboard in control, and follow the rules of the slopes.
  • Never ski or snowboard alone. Make sure someone is there to help you if you get hurt.
  • Get in shape before you hit the slopes. Making sure you are physically fit before you ski or snowboard can help prevent injuries.
  • Wear warm, close fitting clothing. Loose clothing can become entangled in lifts, towropes and ski poles.

Other tips to follow before skiing or snowboarding are:

  • Wear sun protection. The sun reflects off the snow and can cause a burn even on cloudy days.
  • Always wear eye protection. Skiing or snowboarding goggles that are tinted brown or amber are best to filter the sun and allow you to see even in low light.
  • Ski clothing outfitters also make safety equipment such as wrist guards knee pads and tailbone guards to protect the body from injury from falls while snowboarding.

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Surf's Up - A Guide to Internet Sites on the Web

Ice Pack- Winter Driving Tips

Ice Pack is the site to go to for winter driving tips provided by the AAA Motor Club and the Illinois State Police. The phone numbers for winter road conditions and all the districts of the Illinois State Police numbers, in case of emergencies.

Winter Driving Safety- Are You Prepared for Winter?

This website provides information on preparing an emergency safety kit for your car, tips for winterizing your car and how to stay safe if you are trapped in a blizzard.

Hypothermia Prevention, Recognition and Treatment

Articles, protocols and research on the life saving skills on keeping hypothermia victims alive with re-warming techniques.

Hughston Health Alert

This informative article gives definitions of frost bite and hypothermia and how to treat these cold weather emergencies.

Ski and Snowboard Injuries

This website is written by an English Physician about snowboard and skiing injuries. The injuries page provides information about snow sports injuries; where they occur, to whom and why they occur. The injury prevention page gives tips to avoid snow sports injuries. The information provided is an excellent source whether you are snowboarding down smaller mid-west hills or serious alpine skiing.

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Coming Next Month in Injury Prevention

  • National Burn Awareness Week (February 4-10, 2001)
  • National Child Passenger Safety Week (February 11-17)

The information on the Loyola University Health System (LUHS) Web site is for educational purposes only. It is presented in summary form in order to impart general information relating to certain diseases, ailments, physical conditions and their treatments. The information provided through the LUHS Web site should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease, nor is it a substitute for professional care. Should you have any health-care related questions or suspect you have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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