Whether it’s a common cold or a serious injury, keep in mind how to stay safe and where to go if care is needed this time of year. Avoiding Winter Injuries Some of the most common injuries that occur in winter are related to weather conditions and seasonal activities. In order to avoid any accidents, remember some of the following safety precautions:
- Burn Candles Safely on stable surfaces and away from flammable decorations. On average, candles cause 1,200 household fires in the U.S. throughout November and December. Consider using a battery powered LED candle instead.
- Decorate with Caution when hanging lights, lifting heavy items or moving furniture. Getting a hand from loved ones and using proper ladders can also help avoid unexpected strains and falls. This same advice applies when it's time to take down the decorations.
- Dress in Layers and be sure to cover the neck and face in windy conditions to avoid direct inhalation of cold air that can constrict arteries and decrease the heart’s oxygen supply.
- Drink Responsibly to avoid alcohol-induced accidents and injury.
- Drive Carefully and be cautious of other drivers and black ice patches on the road.
- Shovel Safely by keeping in mind the proper techniques and immediately stopping if there is any pain, discomfort, pressure or squeezing in the chest, stomach, arms or jaw. Check with your doctor first if you have any chronic health conditions.
- Watch for Choking Hazards whether it’s at a holiday potluck or with children and small toys.
- Watch Your Step in icy or cold conditions to avoid dangerous slips/falls on steps and pavement. Salt walkways and driveways regularly.
Finding the Right Care Recent data shows unnecessary emergency room visits account for approximately 50 percent of medical spending annually both nationally and in Michigan. Depending on the circumstances, families can save money, time and hassle by knowing when trips to the hospital are unnecessary. Some alternative choices for care, include:
- Online Visits: A study done by The Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare showed that thousands of patients can be treated without going to the emergency room through remote doctor consultations. Telemedicine, a subset of telehealth, refers to real-time clinical health care services provided through electronic technology when distance separates the patient and health care provider. Online visits, or E-Visits, involve real-time (synchronous) two-way communication that is initiated by the patient to virtually connect to a physician or other health care provider for low complexity health care services.
- Primary Care Physician (PCP): If an individual doesn’t require immediate medical attention, it’s recommended that he/she/they first call their primary care physician with questions or concerns. Cold and flu symptoms such as sore throat, cough, or low-grade fever, are a few examples of when a discussion with your PCP or nurse practitioner would be appropriate.
- Urgent Care Centers and Retail Health Clinics: Sprains, minor burns or allergic reactions can be addressed at an urgent care center in half the time of an emergency room. These walk-in facilities can be found across the country offer a wide range of care from certified medical staff at convenient hours throughout the week. And yes, some locations are even open 24 hours a day. Be sure to research urgent care centers within your health plan network to avoid unnecessary costs. Always make sure to share a copy of your urgent care visit records with your Primary Care Provider.
- 24/7 Nurse Lines: Throughout the winter and beyond, questions regarding symptoms of illness or injury can be addressed over the phone. Registered nurses can provide free tips and advice for any health issue and in some cases, a treatment plan. The best part of this solution is its convenience. The nurse line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s an optimal choice during the holiday season.
About the author: Dr. S. George Kipa, MD is a deputy chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. If you found this post helpful, you should also read:
- Is it a Cold or Seasonal Allergies?
- Six Things Everyone Should Know About the Flu Shot
- Your Step-by-Step Guide to Blue Cross Online VisitsSM
Photo credit: Art Marie