HOW TO: Prevent injuries on icy surfaces

Jan 18 2011 - 2:05am

Many cold-weather injuries result from falls on icy surfaces. Here are tips from emergency officials and doctors to help you stay on your feet:

* Wear the right shoes. Many people fall because they wear shoes with heels or smooth, flat surfaces instead of slip-resistant soles.

* Keep your feet apart. You'll have better balance if you walk with your legs spread more than usual -- and, if it's very slippery, your knees slightly bent. "You may feel that you look funny, but it's worth it," says Dr. Ronald Grelsamer, a hip and knee surgeon at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital.

* Take small steps. Use a short, shuffling stride with your feet pointed slightly outward. Curl your toes under and walk as flat-footed as you can, keeping your shoes in contact with the ground as much as possible.

* Always look ahead. Small patches of ice can linger on surfaces that are mostly clear. Don't let your guard down.

* Turn sideways to walk down hills. But caution: Never cross one foot over the other, leaving you with no balance. Bend your knees slightly if the incline is steep.

* Use your arms for balance. Keep your hands out of your pockets, allowing your arms to swing normally or stretch out sideways. Also don't carry heavy loads.

* Protect your dominant arm. If you must break a bone, it's better to hurt the hand you don't rely on for writing and other daily tasks. One idea: hold your coat or anything you're carrying in your dominant hand, leaving the other one free to break any fall.

* Clear paths quickly. Remove snow and spread salt on porches, sidewalks and steps immediately after a storm, before it gets packed down.

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