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TCHC offers tips for avoiding injury in cold and icy conditions

In central Minnesota, we have had a warmer than normal winter, but more cold and icy conditions are likely to return before winter is declared over. Winter weather can create hazardous walking conditions at work or around your home. Tri-County Health Care encourages everyone to review some tips to keep you on your feet throughout the remainder of the winter season.

• Check your footwear. Examine your shoes and boots. How's the traction? Is it time for a new pair? Better traction can help keep you more stable on icy surfaces.

• Keep your shovel and salt in your house. The reason you have a shovel and salt is so you don't have to walk on a slippery sidewalk. If you have to travel through the snow and ice to get to your garage where the salt and shovel are kept, that defeats the purpose.

• Check the railings. If you have railings leading up to your front door, check to see if they're sturdy. If you slipped, would they be able to support you?

• Bring a cell phone when you leave the house. If you fall, it can sometimes be hard to get up. Carrying a cell phone whenever you go out can bring peace of mind.

• Slow down. Allow extra time if it's slippery. It's when you hurry that you push the envelope of what your balance can handle. Also, keep in mind that being a little late is better than rushing and causing a fall.

• Ask for help. If you have to walk across an icy sidewalk or parking lot, try to find a steady arm to hold on to. Most people are happy to help an older person navigate a slippery walkway. You just have to ask.

• Have a plan. When you are going out, ask yourself, "If I slipped and fell here, what would I do?"

• Strengthen your legs. Strong leg muscles can help you steady yourself if you slip. And, if you do fall, they make it a lot easier to get back up.

These little things, when used together, can make the winter elements a little less daunting. "I would recommend that people avoid cowboy boots, sneakers, leather shoes and plastic-soled shoes. Boots with high heels are stylish, but not practical for walking on icy surfaces," said Lois Miller, RN outpatient nurse supervisor. "The best way to prevent injuries is to be aware of where you are going, modify your winter footwear and pay attention to your walking surface."