CareNow® - December 21, 2023
Looking out your window to a winter wonderland is one of the many joys of the season. And while you may choose to cozy up inside with a warm cup of cocoa, getting out into the magical snow and ice outside can pose unique challenges, especially when it comes to safety.

From understanding the signs of safe ice thickness to adopting the penguin walk technique for enhanced stability on icy surfaces, we’re sharing several tips designed to keep you and your loved ones safe during the frosty season.

How to avoid falling on ice

Slips and falls on icy surfaces are common during winter, and unfortunately, they can pose some serious risks to your safety. But with some precautions, you can significantly reduce the risk of accidents so you can enjoy your time outdoors.

Follow these tips to avoid common winter injuries like sprains, concussions, and back injuries:

  1. Move Slowly: Adopt a deliberate and measured pace, taking small steps when walking on snow or ice. Moving slowly allows for better control and balance, reducing the likelihood of slips and falls.
  2. Use Handrails: Whenever available, utilize handrails for additional support while navigating icy surfaces. Handrails provide a stable grip, aiding in maintaining balance and preventing potential falls.
  3. Choose Appropriate Footwear: Wear shoes or boots with good traction to improve grip on slippery surfaces. If you live somewhere that ices over regularly, consider adding ice cleats or shoe grips for extra traction in icy conditions.
  4. Walk Like a Penguin: This one may sound silly, but emulate the penguin's waddle by pointing your feet slightly outward, bending your knees, and walking flat-footed. This proven technique enhances stability and minimizes the risk of slipping on ice.

What to do if you fall on the ice

If you happen to fall on the ice, it's important to stay calm and assess for injuries. Check for any signs of severe pain or potential fractures, and if needed, seek immediate medical attention.

When getting up, do so slowly and cautiously, using your hands and knees to rise without putting excessive pressure on a single joint. Find a stable object, like a railing, for support, and take small, deliberate steps to prevent slipping again.

Pay attention to any delayed onset of pain or symptoms, as injuries may not be immediately apparent. If you begin experiencing pain of any kind, it’s best to be evaluated by a medical provider. At CareNow® urgent care clinics, our qualified providers are available 7 days a week, even after hours, to give you the care and comfort you need.

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How to tell if ice is safe to walk on

Before venturing onto frozen surfaces, it's important to ensure the ice can support your weight. Whether you’re planning to drive on it or simply walk out onto the ice, you need to check its thickness first. Follow these steps if you’re curious about how to check ice thickness:

Spread out in groups

When walking on ice in a group, avoid crossing in a single file and don't stand together in one spot. It's essential to spread out, distributing the weight to reduce the risk of ice giving way. This minimizes the pressure on a single area and enhances the overall safety of the ice.

Test ice thickness

Before settling on a spot, you need to test the ice thickness. Use a simple test, such as an ice chisel, to determine the thickness. Look for visible cracks, and if in doubt, seek an alternative route. Testing the ice regularly as you move can help you identify any potential weak spots and make informed decisions about where it's safe to walk.

How thick is safe ice?

Understanding when ice is safe is a critical step to avoid accidents on frozen bodies of water. Generally, ice begins to be considered "safe" at around 4 - 6 inches in thickness. It is strongly advised not to walk on ice that is 3 inches or less in thickness, as it may not support your weight. Even at a thickness of 9" - 10", caution is still necessary, as ice conditions can vary.

How to drive safely on ice

Navigating icy roads demands heightened caution and specific strategies. While it is possible to travel safely on ice, you do need to change the way you drive. To ensure your safety and the safety of others, adhere to the following guidelines:

Reduce speed and increase following distance

In icy conditions, slowing down is crucial. Reduce your speed to allow for safer maneuvering and to account for the increased stopping distance required on icy roads. Additionally, increase your following distance to provide ample time to react and stop without collisions.

Beware of black ice

Black ice, often challenging to identify, poses a significant threat on roadways. Exercise extra caution, especially in areas prone to freezing conditions. Black ice forms a nearly invisible layer on the road, making it imperative to anticipate its presence and adjust your driving accordingly.

Winter tires and chains

Equip your vehicle with winter tires designed to enhance traction on icy surfaces. These specialized tires maintain flexibility in cold temperatures, providing a better grip on slippery roads. Additionally, in severe icy conditions, consider using tire chains for added traction. Tire chains are particularly effective in improving stability and preventing skidding, enhancing your vehicle's overall performance on icy roads.

Winter can be a magical time, but safety should always be a top priority. Whether you're walking or driving on icy surfaces, taking the right precautions can make a significant difference. Stay safe, stay warm, and enjoy the beauty of winter responsibly.

If you or your family experiences an injury while on the ice, consider choosing your local CareNow® clinic for prompt and high-quality care. With over 225 locations, we are available after hours and on weekends to serve you during crucial times.

Prior to your visit, make use of our convenient Web Check-In® feature, allowing you to wait from anywhere. Discover the nearest clinic by visiting our website.

We are proud to share the exciting news that we have earned the designation of an Accredited Urgent Care Center by the Urgent Care Association (UCA), reinforcing our steadfast dedication to delivering exceptional patient care.

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