Winter Injuries

Every month since February 2010 we have offered some First Aid tips. As Ireland experiences one of the toughest winters for many years we decided to give some advice on typical injuries that can occur in cold and icy conditions.

First Aid tip for January 2011 – Winter injuries

Every winter many people fall victim of icy roads and footpaths. Most falls end just with some embarrasement and bruises. However lots of others are not as lucky

Guy falls on ice – RTE News 08/01/10
One of my emergencies seen on the icy roads of Dublin

Falls on icy surfaces are likely to result in sprains and strains and worst case scenario with broken bones.

Sprains and strains are injuries to the ligaments and muscles or tendons due to overstretching.

The first aid treatment for both is captured best by the acronym – RICE

R – Rest

I – Ice

C – Compression

E – Elevation

Rest – avoid activity for the first 48-72 hours following injury and consider the use of crutches.

Ice – apply ice wrapped in a damp towel for 15-20 minutes every, 2-3 hours during the day for the first 48-72 hours following the injury. Do not leave ice on while asleep.

Compression – with a simple elastic bandage or elasticated tubular bandage, which should be snug, but not tight. Remove before going to sleep.

Elevation – advise the person to rest with their leg elevated and supported on a pillow until the swelling is controlled, and to avoid prolonged periods with the leg not elevated.

correct first aid for sprains and strains

Advise the person to avoid HARM in the first 72 hours after the injury:

Heat (e.g. hot baths, saunas, heat packs).

Alcohol (increases bleeding and swelling and decreases healing).

Running (or any other form of exercise which may cause further damage).

Massage (may increase bleeding and swelling).

Use pain killers if necessary.

Fractures – First Aid treatment

Should you come across a casualty that has fractured a bone you have to make sure that he/she seeks medical attention immediately.

Don’t move the person except if necessary to avoid further injury. Take these actions immediately while waiting for medical help:

  • Stop any bleeding. Apply pressure to the wound with a sterile bandage, a clean cloth or a clean piece of clothing.
  • Immobilize the injured area. Don’t try to realign the bone or push a bone that’s sticking out back in. If you’ve been trained in how to splint and professional help isn’t readily available, apply a splint to the area above and below the fracture sites. Padding the splints can help reduce discomfort.
  • Apply ice packs to limit swelling and help relieve pain until emergency personnel arrive. Don’t apply ice directly to the skin — wrap the ice in a towel, piece of cloth or some other material.
  • Treat for shock. If the person feels faint or is breathing in short, rapid breaths, lay the person down with the head slightly lower than the trunk and, if possible, elevate the legs.

Hypothermia – First Aid treatment

Under most conditions your body maintains a healthy temperature. However, when exposed to cold temperatures your body’s control mechanisms may fail to keep your body temperature normal. When more heat is lost than your body can generate, hypothermia, defined as an internal body temperature less than 35 C, can result.

Wet or inadequate clothing, falling into cold water and even not covering your head during cold weather can increase your chances of hypothermia.

Older adults, infants, young children and people who are very lean are at particular risk.

To care for someone with hypothermia:

  • Call 999/112 for emergency medical assistance. While waiting for help to arrive, monitor the person’s breathing. If breathing stops or seems dangerously slow or shallow, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately.
  • Move the person out of the cold. If going indoors isn’t possible, protect the person from the wind, cover his or her head, and insulate his or her body from the cold ground.
  • Remove wet clothing. Replace wet things with a warm, dry covering.
  • Don’t apply direct heat. Don’t use hot water, a heating pad or a heating lamp to warm the victim. Instead, apply warm compresses to the center of the body — head, neck, chest wall and groin. Don’t attempt to warm the arms and legs. Heat applied to the arms and legs forces cold blood back toward the heart, lungs and brain, causing the core body temperature to drop. This can be fatal.
  • Don’t give the person alcohol. Offer warm nonalcoholic drinks, unless the person is vomiting.
  • Don’t massage or rub the person. Handle people with hypothermia gently; their skin may be frostbitten, and rubbing frostbitten tissue can cause severe damage.


First Aid Measures for Hypothermia : General First Aid Measures for Hypothermia

Frostbite is the medical condition where localised damage is caused to skin and other tissues due to extreme cold. Frostbite is most likely to happen in body parts farthest from the heart and those with large exposed areas. The initial stages of frostbite are sometimes called “frostnip”.

For First Aid advice please read the following fact sheet provided by Professional Health and Safety Institute, Maryland, USA.

If you would like to like to read about our range of First Aid Courses in Dublin please click here.