The winter can be a dangerous season for a number of reasons—unpredictable driving conditions, icy roads to walk, frigid temps causing numbness and frostbite, and snow shoveling is known to cause back pain injuries.
But some things people should consider more closely are the everyday bumps and scrapes that can occur without even knowing it. Because of cold temperatures and numb skin, it's important to pay extra close attention to what you may brush up against when outdoors, in case you accidentally cut yourself.
In fact, you could unknowingly be putting your body at risk while taking part in fun winter activities—like engaging in snowball fights, ice-skating, sledding, and even taking down holiday decorations.
A few common (and not-so-common) causes of winter scrapes
Winter cuts and scrapes can come from anywhere. Even the most enjoyable moments of your season:
- Holiday tree needles, branches, and prickly evergreen wreaths scrape your skin when putting them up (and more likely, when you take them down and throw them out.)
- Splinters from chopping and handling firewood.
- De-icing your windshield with a scraper.
- Chapped hands rubbing against rough surfaces.
And this isn't just about doing work. Whether it's you or your kids, there are sharp, abrasive things everywhere you look:
- The rails of a sled.
- The blades of your recently sharpened ice skates.
- Falling while playing ice hockey.
- If you're lucky, crashing into others while sledding will probably cause a few bumps and bruises—big crashes could put you in the emergency room—yikes!
How to prepare for winter mishaps
1. Have a First Aid kit at home, in your car, and in your travel bag. Ideally, it would be packed with a saline solution, bandages, gauze, and even skin closure packs to help a cut stick together and heal.
2. Be extra careful when dealing with cuts and scrapes if you've had a cold or the flu lately. Being sick could slow down the body's healing process, and of course, you want to make sure nothing nasty comes in contact with the wound.
5. If your hands are cracked and bleeding due to dry skin, make sure you're applying lotion after you wash them, and limiting showers to 10 minutes with warm water so you don't cause dry them out even more.
As temperatures drop, have you started to notice that your knees and other joints aren't feeling as great as they did during the spring and summer? When winter hits, doctors see a noticeable spike in joint pain issues. Until recently, physicians were unaware of why these pain issues were more frequent during winter.
However, new research may provide a window into why joint pain issues are so prevalent during cold weather:
Vitamin D and joint pain
A 2015 study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain examined a group of osteoarthritis sufferers with varying levels of vitamin D. Regardless of weight, the study found that those who had lower levels of vitamin D experienced more knee pain and loss of joint function, as opposed to those with adequate vitamin D levels who reported less pain.
Vitamin D levels can drop especially during the winter when most people are less exposed to direct sunlight and spend less time outdoors. Low vitamin D levels can cause increased inflammation and more frequent pain. Additionally, low vitamin D levels can lower bone quality, which can increase the likelihood of chronic pain issues and possible bone fractures.
How to improve vitamin D levels
Much of the vitamin D in our bodies comes from exposure to sunlight. Doctors may prescribe vitamin D supplements, but they can also be boosted through diet. Tuna, mackerel and salmon, milk, orange juice and cereals, cheese, and egg yolks, are great sources of vitamin D or fortified vitamin D.
Age, weight and current state of health can have an impact on knee and other forms of joint pain. If you or a loved one suffer from joint pain, shop for products to treat this at FSAstore.com!
As frigid temperatures spread this winter, we are taking a closer look at potential medical issues and emergencies that could arise with cold weather.
As frigid temperatures spread this winter, we here at FSAstore.com are taking a closer look at potential medical issues and emergencies that could arise during the peak winter months. Today's entry will cover the potentially life-threatening condition of hypothermia.
What is hypothermia?
Hypothermia is a condition where the body begins to lose heat faster than it can produce it, which is caused by extensive exposure to cold temperatures or under cold water for an excessive period of time. Hypothermia begins to occur when the body's temperature drops below 98 degrees Fahrenheit, and if it is allowed to progress below 95 degrees, this can lead to the complete failure of the heart and respiratory system. In any situation with hypothermia, seeking out medical attention is the best course of action.
What are the signs of hypothermia?
Being mindful of the most common hypothermia symptoms will allow you to respond quickly, or care for a loved one who is experiencing the symptoms of hypothermia. Because symptoms are so gradual, in most cases individuals who are suffering from hypothermia don't know they have it, and the confused thinking associated with the condition can sometimes exacerbate the problem. Therefore, knowledge is power when hypothermia strikes. The most common symptoms include:
Mild Hypothermia: Confusion/trouble speaking, excessive shivering, lack of coordination, dizziness, hunger, nausea, fatigue, increased heart rate, hyperventilation (rapid breathing).
Severe Hypothermia: Shallow breathing, loss of consciousness, weak pulse, slurred speech/stumbling, very low energy levels, dilated pupils, shivering stops as hypothermia progresses.
How is hypothermia treated?
If you determine that you or a loved one is suffering from the symptoms of hypothermia, the first thing you should do is seek shelter in a warm, dry location in an effort to raise body temperature. Next, the most important steps to remember are:
- Avoid excessive movement: An individual with hypothermia is more susceptible to cardiac arrest his/her condition, so it's vital for any movements to be slow and deliberate to avoid unneeded stress that could lead to further complications.
- Provide immediate warmth: In an effort to stave off the advanced symptoms of hypothermia, encouraging the body's natural production of body heat is essential. Start by removing any cold or wet clothing and wrapping the individual in blankets with total coverage for his/her entire body, as well as providing insulation from whatever surface the person is laying on. Warm beverages, as well as gloves and socks for extremities can speed the warming process.
- Warm Compresses/Heating Pads: Heating pads and warm compresses are FSA/HSA/HRA eligible, and they can be extremely vital in raising an individual's body temperature. It's extremely important to note that you should never place warm compresses on the arms or legs of a person suffering from hypothermia. This is because compresses could force colder blood back up into the torso toward the heart and lungs, which could accelerate the effects of hypothermia rather than helping. Always apply these compresses to the neck or chest, and avoid excessive heat that could damage the skin.
- Share body heat: Another tactic that is proven to provide immediate warmth is to share body heat through skin-to-skin contact. Remove your clothing and lie down next to the person and cover both of your bodies with blankets to speed the warming process.
In any hypothermia situation, you should seek out medical help as soon as possible, but these methods may mean the difference between life and death in extreme cold weather.
Check back again soon for our next entry on how to treat winter related emergencies, and make sure you're prepared for any medical situation by exploring the web's largest selection of FSA eligible products at FSAstore.com
Ever been outside in cold weather for too long, leaving your extremities red, stinging and burning soon after coming indoors? Learn about frostbite!
What is frostbite?
Frostbite is a dangerous medical condition that results in the damage of skin and underlying tissue after being exposed to extremely cold temperatures. Frostbite is a natural result of the body trying to preserve warmth in cold temperatures by the narrowing of the blood vessels at the skin's surface in extremities, which forces blood inward toward the torso to keep internal organs warm. These blood vessels will expand and contract to stay as warm as possible, but if temperatures become cold enough, ice crystals can begin to form within these skin cells, freezing the tissue and potentially causing lasting damage to these extremities.
How do I spot frostbite?
Frostbite takes on a series of stages depending on the temperature/wind chill and how long extremities are exposed to extreme temperatures or direct contact with ice, freezing metals or very cold liquids. These stages include:
Frostnip: This is the earliest stage of frostbite that does not permanently damage the skin. During this stage, the skin of the extremities turns red and feels cold to the touch, but over time could lead to prickling pain and numbness, which can persist as the skin re-warms.
Superficial Frostbite: After an extended period of time in extreme temperatures, exposed skin will advance from reddish numbness and begin to lose its color and become pale as ice crystals form in the underlying skin layers. However, during this stage, as the skin begins to re-warm, it can result in blisters, swelling and bruises.
Severe Frostbite: If frostbite continues unabated, extreme temperatures will continue to penetrate through the skin layers to affect the deeper tissue. This condition is known for its extreme numbness and loss of sensation of cold or pain, as well as a deterioration of the joints and muscles. After re-warming, black blisters will form in the days following, and if significant amounts of tissue die, this could lead to gangrene and possible amputation of the extremity.
How is frostbite treated?
The best treatment for frostbite is prevention. Before heading outdoors, be sure to check the weather forecast and dress appropriately for the temperature, wind speed and precipitation. However, if you suspect that frostbite symptoms are present, you should keep the following tips in mind:
Gently re-warm affected areas: Warm (not hot) water is the best option to slowly re-warm injured areas, so keep them submerged for 15 to 30 minutes until they have returned to a normal temperature. Shop for hot/cold packs.
Take an oral pain medication: Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief medications are a wise choice when re-warming your extremities, as this process can be extremely painful and these medications can limit your discomfort. Note: OTC medications require a prescription for FSA reimbursement.
Protect affected areas: Even after re-warming, pay particular attention to those areas of skin that were exposed to extreme temperatures in the following days. Keep them wrapped to promote healing and monitor their condition for signs of bruising or blistering.
Consider medical attention: As a rule of thumb, if you have frostbite symptoms more advanced than frostnip, you should seek medical attention. However, if you do not consult a doctor, be sure to reconsider if blistering, bruising or numbness persists for several days, or if wounds begin to feel hot or extremely painful, the signs of an underlying infection.
As winter gets underway, make sure you have everything you need to keep you and your family healthy all season long at FSAstore.com! We have the web's largest selection of FSA eligible products to help you make the most of your healthcare benefits.